BENGALURU: With the continuing deaths of tigers in Nagarhole-Bandipur region, wildlife officials and experts call for a dedicated team of vets and a separate veterinary cadre in the state forest department. There is also a need for a department of wildlife health monitoring, rescue and forensics in view of the rising man-animal conflict, especially in districts having tiger reserves. Five tigers and one leopard have died in the last 23 days.
The rising pressure on the state forest department to capture and relocate tigers and leopards has in fact exposed the clear lack of veterinary expertise in dealing with both immobilisation and post-treatment measures as also wildlife diseases. Given the gravity of the situation, more trained professionals in wildlife health are needed for the five tiger reserves.
Officials opine the present group of vets (except a few) on deputation to tiger reserves in the state have minimal expertise in dealing with big cats and they are in desperate need of advanced training. Further, the department needs young wildlife vets who can go into the field to deal with conflict situation and not 50 plus doctors whose mobility and flexibility is restricted.
Every month, one or the other district in south interior Karnataka has been witnessing capture and relocation operations of tigers, elephants and leopards. In the process, the state has lost a few tigers and leopards, all because of the vets’ inexperience in diagnosing the problem and giving the right treatment in the field. In fact, in the last few immobilisation operations in the state, they had failed to give the right dosage and were unable to provide proper post-operative care, resulting in the animal deaths.
A veterinary expert says, “Today, for everything we have to depend on Wildlife Institute of India, Dehradun, or the Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals. However, taking advantage of this, if the state can open a dedicated department within IAH&VB, it will help study, monitor and assist in the field of wildlife health monitoring and forensics.”
With big cats straying into human habitations, they are sometimes killed. A senior forest official who has prepared a vision document to address this issue says, “The state does not have any trained rescue teams with veterinary doctors and experienced trackers. There is a need for proper logistic support, tranquillizing equipment and medicines. For all rescue teams stationed at strategic locations, regular training should be organised to make them conversant with the latest rescue and capture techniques.”
Wildlife health plan
Little is known about wildlife diseases in Karnataka. A close association between wildlife and domestic animals and people residing in and around PAs make them susceptible to many zoonotic and transmissible diseases. “A comprehensive health plan needs to be in place to deal with any kind of eventualities.
Due to inadequate wild animal health monitoring and disease survey network, some infectious and dangerous disease outbreak may go unnoticed. So continuous wildlife health monitoring, treatment of sick animals, proper disease preventive work and research is required to be carried out.”