Experts for inspection of zoos

CHENNAI, JULY 20. The Nandankanan episode in which 12 tigers died recently, has proved that holding animals in excess of the ``carrying capacity'' at zoological parks could affect the quality of care given to them, Mr. S.C. Sharma, Additional Inspector General of Forests, said today. Mr.Sharma did not totally rule out the possibility of tigers getting tryponosomiasis through putrefied meat. ``It could happen,'' he said.

Winding up the two-day workshop on `Diagnosis, prevention and treatment of zoo animals', he said the there was a consensus among delegates that `berenil' was the drug of choice and its efficacy, as a curative drug, was accepted. However, there was no information on the drug's reaction and how it worked in wild animals, though tryponosomiasis had been afflicting carnivores in captivity over the past 37 years.

On recommendations made by the expert group, he said they favoured a preventive mechanism in the zoos so that emergencies could be handled in a systematic way. Funding of healthcare proposals at the zoos was not a problem as the Ministry provided 100 per cent assistance for upgradation of medical facilities. Some of the recommendations suggested by the panel of experts at the meet called for periodical disease surveillance for captive animals, especially after monsoon and provision of latest diagnostic kits to veterinary institutions that were in close proximity to the zoos.

On disease prevention, the experts recommended prophylactic shots before the monsoon, fogging to control flies, inspection by authorised veterinarians of meat supplied to the captive animals and notification of diseases among the zoo custodians.

Mr. C.P. Oberio, IG Forests, said the Ministry would soon have a website for field veterinarians to access information, and an expert team would reply their queries. The website would help in collecting data on diseases and zoo related subjects. The Ministry would also prepare and publish a directory containing the addresses of experts and other professionals in the field to facilitate communication, especially in times of emergency. Efforts would also be taken to remove bureaucratic hurdles.

Networking of zoos with the nearest veterinary institution was another aspect the Ministry would insist upon, so that expert assistance could be had at short notice, he said.