Wildlife sanctuaries on high alert

Case of a captive tiger developing COVID-19 in a U.S. zoo

Wildlife and Animal Husbandry departments have been put on high alert in the State following a case of a captive tiger developing COVID-19 in a U.S. zoo.

Surendra Kumar, Chief Wildlife Warden, Kerala, has issued an advisory to all field directors, circle heads of territorial and wildlife forest divisions, wildlife wardens and divisional forest officers to look for any signs of the spread of the disease among wild animals. “As a captive tiger has been found infected with coronavirus, there is no reason to believe that the same cannot be transmitted to tigers in the wild,” noted the advisory.

Presence of tigers has been reported across the Kerala forests and the State has notified the tiger habitats of Periyar and Parambikulam as tiger reserves. Wayanad forest shelters the highest number of tigers in the State.

Advisory issued

The field staff of the Forest Department has been asked to look for sick animals. A similar advisory has been issued to the Director of Zoo, Thiruvananthapuram, to follow the instructions issued by the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest and the Central Zoo Authority in managing the situation.

Zoo authorities were also directed to follow the Indian Council for Medical Research guidelines on the collection, packaging and transportation of COVID-19 specimens, Mr. Kumar said.

The State Institute for Animal Diseases, Thiruvananthapuram, will issue an advisory activating the network of veterinarians to look for any possible signs of the disease among domestic animals too, said R. Jayachandran, Chief Disease Investigation Officer.

Hong Kong case

The institute had issued a circular during the first phase of the disease. There was an earlier report of a cat, kept in the same household of a COVID-19 patient in Hong Kong, developing the antibody of the disease. The cat was not clinically infected. The animals can develop antibodies when exposed to the disease. However, one needs to confirm whether the animal has been infected by the virus, he said.

E.K. Eswaran, Chief Forest Veterinarian, said diagnosis of the disease among the wild animal population would be an uphill task. Once infected, the animals would hide the symptoms and remain hidden in their habitats as the sick ones would be preyed on by other animals. Sick animals may emerge from the hiding and appear near water sources only at the terminal stage of the disease, making their early identification difficult. Camera traps near waterholes may help identify the weak animals, he said.

The human-animal interactions have been reduced to the minimum due to the lock down. However, the field staff of the forest and the tribesmen need to exercise caution and follow safety precautions against the disease, he said.

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Printable version | Jul 5, 2020 8:19:37 PM |

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