Domestic as well as wild animals of Kerala remain free of COVID-19 thus far, said wildlife officials. The State was put on high alert following reports of a tiger in a U.S. zoo developing the disease last week.
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The State had earlier stepped up vigil in its wildlife habitats and zoos, besides bringing thousands of domestic animals in various districts under observation. The State Wildlife Warden had also issued an advisory to all Field Directors, Circle Heads of Territorial and Wildlife Forest Divisions, Wildlife Wardens and Divisional Forest Officers to watch out for animals in distress.
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Tiger habitats and other forest areas are being regularly monitored using camera traps. So far, there have not been any reports of illness in the wild animal population in the State, said Surendrakumar, Chief Wildlife Warden, Kerala.
The State Institute of Animal Diseases, Thiruvananthapuram, had alerted its veterinarians and officials across the State to watch for any diseases and deaths in animals. No reports of any animal developing the disease have come in so far, said R. Jayachandran, Chief Disease Investigation Officer of the Institute.
On media reports related to the isolation of coronavirus in bats caught from Kerala last year, Dr. Jayachandran said that there was no confirmation that the isolated pathogens were the ones that caused the COVID-19 outbreak. There are other pathogens in the coronavirus family that can cause disease in animals and humans, he said.
Regarding domestic animals, one dog of a nondescript species, which was kept by a patient who tested positive for the coronavirus in Pathanamthitta, was the latest to be added on the list of domestic animals under observation, said O. P Raj, Deputy Director, Department of Animal Husbandry, Pathanamthitta. Thousands of domestic animals, including cattle, cats and dogs, have been under observation in the district in their usual habitats. The owners of these animals have been asked to report on any drowsiness or illness in the animals, said O.P. Raj, Deputy Director, Department of Animal Husbandry, Pathanamthitta.
Titto Joseph, Assistant Director of the Department of Animal Husbandry, Kasaragod, one of the districts worst-hit by the coronavirus in Kerala, said no cases of human to animal transmission of the disease had been reported from the district. Animals were being regularly monitored for any signs of illness, said Dr. Titto, who is also the District Coordinator for the Animal Disease Control Project.
Big cats still safe
Animals housed in the Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur zoos of Kerala, especially tigers and leopards, remain unaffected by the disease.
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Apart from daily reports on animal health, animal keepers have been placed on alert in the Thrissur zoo, where three tigers and four leopards are housed. Monkeys are also on the watch list, said V. Rajesh, Superintendent of the zoo.
The seven tigers and eight leopards of the Thiruvananthapruam zoo were keeping good health, said T. V. Anilkumar, Superintendent of the zoo. The animals are regularly monitored through CCTV cameras, he said.