COVID-19 spread changes dietary patterns of big cats kept in zoos

COVID-19 pandemic has forced the zoo keepers to change the dietary practices of big cats kept in captivity.

Instead of the raw meat provided to the large carnivores such as lion, tiger and leopard in zoos, they are now being fed with sterilised meat. Beef provided to these animals are now sterilised by dipping it in hot water at a temperature of 65 degree Celsius for 10 minutes. The move comes as part of the guidelines issued by the Central Zoo Authority in the wake of the increasing increasing number of pandemic cases, said T. V. Anilkumar, superintend of the Thiruvananthapruam Zoo.

The zoo in the State capital houses a pair of lion and seven leopards and tigers. The other one in Thrissur, the second such facility in the State, has one tiger, three leopards and four tigers.

Each animal is fed seven kilos of beef a day and the quantity of the meat supplied is modified according to its consumption after obtaining reports from the zoo veterinarian, said V. Rajesh, Superintendent of the Thrissur zoo.

The Kerala zoos have stepped up vigil after reports of eight Asiatic lions in Hyderabad being infected with SARS-COVID-2.

The animals are being observed for signs of nasal discharge, cough, salivation and diarrhoea. Veterinarians are keeping a regular watch on these animals for signs of distress. They have been equipped with PPE kits and other facilities for collecting the swabs from the animals. The zoos are now closed for visitors following the increase in the incidents of infection, he said.

Only those animal keepers who have received the two dozes of vaccine are now deployed for the duty and they have been asked to maintain a distance of two metres from the enclosures. They were also instructed not to get in contact with the animals. The enclosures are disinfected at regular intervals. Till now, no instances of animals getting infected have been reported, said Mr. Anilkumar.

The guidelines issued by the Authority last month had asked the zoo keepers to limit the access to fields, mustelid, primate and viverrid enclosures and holding areas to essential staff and to cordon off the areas.

Animal keepers were asked to use coveralls, double masks, N95 masks, face shields, and latex gloves while at work. It had asked the staff working in close proximity to the animals, in animal enclosures and food preparation areas to subject themselves for RT-PCR tests.

The animal enclosures shall be sprayed with anti-virals, especially those which were found effective against the COVID-19 virus. The area shall be washed after 10 minutes of spraying. The authority had also recommended testing all large carnivores for COVID-19. In case of animal mortality, the zoo keepers were asked to carry out post-mortem with due care and samples sent for COVID-19 tests.

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Printable version | Jun 14, 2021 12:02:15 AM |

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