GUWAHATI: Authorities in Assam’s wildlife sanctuaries, national parks and reserve forests are on guard as pigs are dying by the hundreds due to an outbreak of African swine fever.
The disease, which Veterinary and Animal Husbandry Minister Atul Bora believed travelled from China to Assam via Arunachal Pradesh, has so far killed over 2,200 domestic pigs in eight districts.
The “pandemic” forced the government to issue an advisory to the wildlife division asking it to take all pre-emptive measures.
“…A good number of wild pigs in certain reserve forests in the state may have come into contact with domestic pig population reared in the countryside. As there has been prevalence of pig mortality due to high fever in various districts, it is suggested that the wild population should be adequately protected from coming outside the periphery of their natural habitat so that they do not get contact with infected domestic pigs,” the advisory issued to the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest and Chief Wildlife Warden reads.
Dr Pulin Chandra Das, Director of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry, said the deaths were confirmed to have been caused by African swine fever after samples were sent to a lab in Bhopal.
“As far as we know, China dumped the carcasses of pigs in the river. They first came floating into Arunachal and then into Assam,” Das told The New Indian Express.
Earlier, seven pig carcasses were retrieved from the Kaziranga National Park and disposed of.
“We detected seven carcasses of pigs which were floating on the river Brahmaputra. With support from the Department of Veterinary and Animal Husbandry, Biswanath, the carcasses were disposed of,” Kaziranga Field Director P Sivakumar said.
He said the issue was discussed on Friday with villagers, NGOs and the police at a meeting that was chaired by the Chief Wildlife Warden.
Sivakumar said the growing pig deaths could be a threat to human beings as well as domestic animals as they drink river water. “We need massive awareness on the disposal of carcasses,” he added.
Manoj Basumatary, who is a pig farmer and founding president of Northeast Progressive Pig Farmers’ Association, said human beings or, for that matter, vehicles could be the carriers of the disease as pigs are transported for trade and other reasons.
“Since African swine fever is a pandemic, the government has to come up with a containment policy. There are standard protocols issued by the World Organisation for Animal Health. We want those to be strictly followed,” Basumatary insisted.
According to him, the pork business in the Northeast is worth around Rs 8,000 crore to Rs 10,000 crore a year. He said the pig farmers had been severely affected, first by COVID-19 and now by African swine flu.