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Central Zoo Authority tells zoo officials to be on alert in the wake of COVID-19

Fortnightly samples of suspected cases are to be sent to designated animal health institutes for COVID-19 testing. | File

Fortnightly samples of suspected cases are to be sent to designated animal health institutes for COVID-19 testing. | File   | Photo Credit: Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Directive comes after tiger tests positive at Bronx Zoo

Reports confirming the coronavirus infection in a tiger at New York’s Bronx Zoo has come as a shock to wildlife officials in the country. Different agencies, including the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) and the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) on Monday wrote to a letter to all Wildlife Wardens to maintain an increased vigil on tigers.

India is the home to about 70% of the world’s tiger population and officials of the NTCA said that they could not take chances if the spread of the virus has been reported in a tiger.

“We don’t know whether the virus can affect tigers. There is one case from the U.S. and considering that it is true, we are taking precautionary measures,” NTCA Member Secretary Arup Kumar Nayak told The Hindu.

Mr. Nayak said that directions from the NTCA include keeping a close watch on natural deaths of of tigers, and carrying out post mortems. There are 50 Tigers Reserves in the country, with a total tiger population of an estimated 2,967.

Also read | Alipore zoo to enhance regular checking of big cats

Precautionary action

A letter from the NTCA to all tiger ranging States that owing to the communicable and zoonotic nature of the coronavirus, certain actions need to taken to avert the disease in wild tigers in India.

“Tigers may be observed for symptoms cosset with COVID-19 such as respiratory signs of nasal discharge, coughing and laboured breathing through direct observation to the extent possible besides through camera trap images for visible symptoms,” the NTCA letter to tiger ranging States.

Earlier in the day, the CZA wrote to all zoos in the country to take precautionary measures in the wake of confirmation of the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that leads to the COVID-19 disease, in a tiger housed in the Bronx Zoo 

“Zoos in the country are, therefore, advised to remain on the highest alertness, watch animals on 24x7 basis, including CCTV for any abnormal behaviour/symptoms, keepers handlers not to be allowed in the vicinity, without safety gear preferably PPE (personal protective equipment), isolate and quarantine sick animals and have least contact while providing feed to animals,” the letter said.

‘Monitor carefully’

 CZA Member Secretary S. P. Yadav stated in the letter that carnivores, especially cats, ferrets and primates, were to be carefully monitored. Mr. Yadav said that fortnightly samples of possible cases were to be sent to the designated animal health institutes to initiate COVID-19 testing while following bio-containment and safety measures required to handle the high risk pathogen in accordance with national/ Indian Council of Medical Research guidelines.

“All zoo personnel are to strictly adhere to safety and disinfection protocol issued by the government [from] time to time, on Novel Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19),” the letter added.

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Printable version | May 25, 2020 10:20:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/zoos-asked-to-remain-on-high-alert-collect-samples-for-covid-19-testing/article31268137.ece

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