A nine-year-old lioness, named Neela, died of COVID-19 and nine other lions have tested positive at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur, Chennai
According to zoo authorities, Neela, housed in Animal House Number 2 at the Safari area of the Zoological Park, died on June 3 evening. The lioness had been asymptotic and showed some nasal discharge on June 2 and had been symptomatically treated immediately.
Sources said that on May 26, five lions housed in Animal House 1 of the Safari area had shown loss of appetite and occasional coughing. Following this, the in-house veterinary team along with experts deputed by the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) lifted blood samples.
Besides, the nasal, rectal swabs and faecal samples of 11 lions were sent to National Institute of High Security Diseases (NIHSAD) Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, which is one of the four designated institutes authorised to take up SARS CoV-2 testing in captive animals.
“As per the laboratory test results furnished by the Institute, samples in respect of 9 lions out of the 11 sent, have tested positive for SARS CoV-2,” an official said. All the lions which have tested positive are under close observation and on a prescribed treatment regimen by the in-house veterinary team in close coordination with an expert team from TANUVAS. All animal keepers and helpers for these animal houses are vaccinated against COVID 19.
To ascertain whether or not the reported findings are in the nature of “false positives”, samples have also been sent on June 4 to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute Bareilly and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad.
“The Park has been scrupulously following the precautionary measures prescribed in various advisories issued by the Central Zoo Authority, the Central and the State Governments from time to time. Prophylactic measures for the felids, mustelids, viverrids and primates as arrived at in consultation with the expert team of TANUVAS, veterinarians of Hyderabad Zoo and also Bronx Zoo, are being adhered to,” the zoo said in an official release.
A separate set of animal keepers are assigned for each group of lions and PPE Kits are mandatory for them and the veterinary doctors, field staff visiting the area, the authorities added.
Meanwhile, a Forest Department official said, “The situation is being monitored round the clock at all levels.”
“As a safety measure a vaccination drive is being conducted by the zoo officials and 61% of the large cat animal handlers have been vaccinated as of June 3,” he said.
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