BANGALORE: Following the death of 13 sloth bears since January, the authorities of Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP) are seeking the help of experts in Cochin and Delhi to save the bears from dying due to tuberculosis.
Of the 13 bears that have died in the last two and a half months, eleven have died of TB and two others due to snake bite and old age.
As per the Supreme Court directives, a rescue centre has been opened at the BBP to house the sloth bears rescued from the Kalandars (bear charmers) of West Bengal and other parts of the country. Today, there are 104 sloth bears in the rescue centre. These bears have contracted Tuberculosis as they remained with the charmers most of the time.
The bears in wild are free from any diseases since they are absolutely away from human contact. The BBP authorities have taken the death seriously and have written to experts in Cochin and Delhi to come here and conduct a check-up to find out how many more bears have TB.
Besides, the services of National TB Institute are also requisitioned for the same purpose. Last year, only six bears died but in the last two and a half months already 13 have died due to TB. Dr R Raju, Executive Director, Bannerghatta Biological Park, told Express that unlike human beings it is very difficult to find out the number of sloth bears suffering from TB.
Mere collection of blood sample does not help as the veterinary doctors need to conduct the sputum test. Collection of the sputum from the bear is totally ruled out. The main symptoms of TB are disinterest in food and dullness. It is very difficult for the animal keepers to keep a tab on each and every bear as there may be other reasons for the animals to remain silent. Most of the times they come to know that the bear has TB only after conducting postmortem, he added.
He said the experts are expected to arrive in a one week to conduct the medical examination of all the bears in the rescue centre. Since it is a rescue centre, the authorities cannot send the sloth bears into any wildlife sanctuary or Daroji Bear Park as the bears are born wild. The only option is to have them in the rescue centre. Once the experts release the medical chart of each bear, they will keep the bears having TB in a separate enclosure for treatment. “If the bears are in group, going near them itself is a risky thing,” he added.