Vandalur zoo on alert, running tests on big cats after lions in Hyderabad contract COVID

Express News Service

CHENNAI: After reports of eight Asiatic lions at the Hyderabad zoo testing positive for the SARS-CoV2 virus, the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Vandalur has sounded an alert and collected samples from its big cats to run COVID tests.

Zoo director Debasis Jana told The New Indian Express that as on date, none of the big cats have exhibited any typical symptoms of coronavirus.

“However, as a precautionary measure, faeces samples are being collected and will be sent to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) to conduct COVID tests. Usually, samples have to be collected from nose, throat and respiratory tract for which the animal need to be tranquilised. Under the current scenario, we don’t want to do that since it may compromise the immunity levels of the animal,” he said.

This apart, RT-PCR tests are conducted on all zoo keepers and instructions have been given not to touch animals. Arrangements are being made to vaccinate all zoo employees on a priority basis, Jana said.

Meanwhile, the Central Zoo Authority has advised all zoos in India to revisit the guidelines being followed. It said all staff working in close proximity to animals, in animal enclosures or food preparation areas much be tested by RT-PCR and appropriately trained in safe handling and wearing of protective gear.

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The CZA have also recommended that, in case of mortality, post-mortem of animals should be conducted with due care and appropriate samples should be sent for COVID-19 tests.

The Hyderabad case is probably the first known instance of humans infecting large felines. Previously, there are a few documented cases of large felines contracting COVID-19. In April last year, four tigers and three lions at a zoo in the United States tested positive. All of them recovered.

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