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Vandalur Zoo to test all lions for Canine Distemper Virus, gets 50 imported vaccine doses

So far, two lions have tested positive for CDV -- 9-year-old lioness Neela and 19-year-old Raghav

Published: 19th June 2021 03:29 PM  |   Last Updated: 19th June 2021 03:29 PM   |  A+A-

Asiatic lions

The CDV was detected in Vandalur Zoo lions by chance, when ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute was testing their samples for SARS-CoV-2 (File photo | EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Leaving nothing to chance, the Arignar Anna Zoological Park is planning to test all its Asiatic lions for Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) and has also procured 50 imported vaccine doses to cover all the big cats in the park.

So far, two lions have tested positive for CDV -- 9-year-old lioness Neela and 19-year-old Raghav. Based on the available evidence, Neela died more due to Covid-19, while Raghav, who tested negative for Covid-19, is normal and exhibiting no typical severe symptoms of CDV like muscle twitching, seizures etc.

Naga Sathish Gidijala, Deputy Director of Vandalur Zoo, told The New Indian Express, "We had a very detailed discussion with Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) on CDV. It cannot be called an outbreak. It's only been incidental. The 12-year-old lion Pathbanathan, who died recently, has also tested negative for CDV. So, it's not a huge concern as of now. However, to completely rule out the threat, we will try to test all the lions for CDV. TANUVAS can test the samples."      

The CDV was detected in Vandalur Zoo lions by chance, when ICAR-Indian Veterinary Research Institute (ICAR-IVRI) was testing their samples for SARS-CoV-2 and any other comorbidities, which would help the veterinarians in finetuning their treatment regimen. In its report, IVRI had termed the infection "very mild".

Vaccination soon

In February, well before the outbreak of Covid-19, Vandalur Zoo was in talks with Etawah Lion Safari Park in Uttar Pradesh, which happens to be the only official licence holder to import CDV vaccines from a pharmaceutical firm in the United States.  

"After the CDV outbreak in Gir National Park in Gujarat that killed several lions, our veterinarians had expressed the need for CDV vaccination, but there is only one company in the United States that manufactures the vaccine in limited numbers based on pre-order and we need to have a license to import. Later, we learnt that Etawah is the coordinating centre in India for CDV vaccination. Except for an advisory, the vaccination guidelines and protocol prescribed by Central Zoo Authority (CZA) does not include CDV vaccine for big cats," a zoo official said.

Etawah Park received the vaccination consignment from the United States only last month. "We are planning to send a member of our vet team next week to Etawah to bring 50 CDV vaccine doses, which will cover all our big cats," the official said.

Scientific study on death of lions
                
Vandalur Zoo officials said: "We are personally grieved by the death of two young lions and want a detailed scientific study to be conducted. We have requested the National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD) to conduct a more in depth analysis of the lioness Neela samples available with them. We secured multiple samples (blood, nasal, rectal, liver etc) of Pathbanathan which we will send to multiple laboratories for molecular, cellular, forensic and genome sequencing to understand how Covid is behaving in big cats, especially lions. So far, we have limited or zero knowledge as no studies are conducted in this direction."

Sources said the Central Zoo Authority of India was also reviewing different protocols being followed and incorporating a few changes as several zoos have reported Covid-19 cases. A virtual meeting with all zoo directors was conducted on June 18.



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