GUWAHATI: Alarmed that a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in the United States tested positive for COVID-19, the Centre on Monday directed the Chief Wildlife Wardens in all states and Union Territories to ensure that the animal remains safe.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority directed all Chief Wildlife Wardens and tiger range states to take preventive measures in order to avert the disease in the big cat.
“Tigers may be observed for symptoms consistent with COVID 19 such as respiratory signs of nasal discharge, coughing and laboured breathing through direct observation to the extent possible besides through camera trap images for visible symptoms…
“It should be ensured that personnel, handling tigers in human-tiger negative interactions and translocation operations, be ascertained to be coronavirus negative. They should take due precaution as advised by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India from time to time,” a circular said.
The Chief Wildlife Wardens were advised to exercise diligence while handling post-mortem cases to record location, age and sex of the animal at the time of collection of samples for coronavirus diagnosis in consultation with the state veterinary officials.
As coronavirus is known to affect gastrointestinal system in felines, the requisite correlation may be made for characterizing the virus type in consultation with the State Veterinary Department. For COVID 19 diagnosis as well as differential diagnoses and characterization, samples may be sent to ICAR approved laboratories as per enclosure, the circular said.
The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued another circular through the Central Zoo Authority.
“Zoos in the country are, therefore, advised to remain on the highest alertness, watch animals on 24X7 basis, using CCTV for any abnormal behaviour/symptoms, keepers/handlers not to be allowed in the vicinity without safety gear preferably PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), isolate & quarantine sick animals, and have least contact while providing feed to animals,” the circular stated.
It said mammals like carnivores especially cat, ferret, and primates have to be carefully monitored and fortnightly samples of suspect cases sent to the designated animal health institutes to initiate COVID-19 testing while following all bio-containment and safety measures required to handle this high-risk pathogen as per the national/ICMR guidelines.
“All zoo personnel to strictly adhere to safety and disinfection protocol issued by the Government, time to time, on Novel Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19). Further, zoos are advised to coordinate with designated nodal agencies of the Government responsible for public health response and permit screening, testing and surveillance and diagnostic samples as and when required by the nodal agency,” the circular reads.