BH CORRESPONDENT, Kolkata: Kolkata’s famed Alipore zoo has been put on high alert following reports that a tiger called Nadia at the New York zoo and some other big cats there have been showing signs of coronavirus infection. In fact, the central zoo authority, the apex body of all such animal homes, has issued an advisory saying that the health of tigers and lions should be closely monitored on a daily basis.
Alipore zoo authorities said that all is being done according to the guidelines: cages and enclosures are being fumigated with disinfectants and the animals keepers have to don protective gear before approaching the big cats.
Zoos have also been asked to send samples of animals suspected to be sick, to three designated animal health institutes to initiate COVID-19 testing.
“Zoos in the country are advised to remain on highest alertness, watch animals on 24×7 basis, using CCTV for any abnormal behaviour and symptoms, keepers and handlers not to be allowed in the vicinity without safety gear preferably PPE (personal protective equipment), isolate and quarantine sick animals, and have least contact while provding feed to animals,” the advisory issued by the central zoo authority said.
There are around 160 recognised zoos in India with more than 56,800 captive animal in them. All zoos are presently closed because of the lockdown.
The CZAI advisory also says: “Mammals like carnivores especially cats, ferrets and primates to be carefully monitored and fortnightly samples of suspected cases to be 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 and ICMR guidelines.”
It also says that all zoo personnel will have to to strictly adhere to safety and disinfection protocol issued by the government from time to time on novel coronavirus disease.
An earlier study published in BioRxiv had found that ferrets and cats are susceptible to contracting coronavirus but not dogs, ducks, chickens and pigs. According to the study, these findings can be important for vaccine and antiviral drug development for the disease. BioRxiv is a free online archive and distribution service for unpublished preprints in life sciences.
There is, however, no reason for panic among pet-keepers or cat-lovers because the findings are based on only lab experiments, and there has been no study on whether cats can pass on the infection to humans, according to experts. It is also unclear which species of cats was used for the experiments for the study.