Forest officials investigate if Covid-19 killed 10-year-old tiger in MP reserve

Recently, a 4-year-old Malaysian tiger ‘Nadia’ had tested positive for Covid-19 in New York’s Bronx Zoo.

Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: social media)
Representative Image (Photo Courtesy: social media)

Kashif Kakvi

Forest officials are suspecting Covid-19 as the reason behind the death of a 10-year-old tiger due to ravaged lungs and fatal respiratory distress in Madhya Pradesh’s Pench Tiger Reserve on April 4.

The suspicion arose following the news of 4-year-old Malaysian tiger ‘Nadia’ testing positive for Covid-19 in New York’s Bronx Zoo.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forest Rajesh Shrivastava said, “Yes, their is a possibility that the 10-year-old male tiger, T21, might have died due to the pandemic. We are doing confirmation tests. According to veterinarians and experts, the fatal virus can’t survive in the tiger. However, we are testing all the people who had interacted with T-21 to find out whether he died of Covid-19.”

The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Central Zoo Authority (CZA) on Monday issued alerts to the chief wildlife warden of Madhya Pradesh and all other states over reports of Covid-19 infection in captive tigers in the US.

“We will discuss with vets on what steps need to be taken. As per standard procedures, it was to be sent to wildlife laboratory in Jabalpur for histopathological report, which includes tests for virus and poison,” said Pench field director Vikram Singh Parihar.

T21 died on the morning of April 4. It had been found unresponsive in a water body in Pench Reserve, and was injected with medicines through a dart. But it died the next morning. An autopsy yielded a football-sized hairball in its stomach, and its lungs were badly damaged, but there was no immediate clue to cause of death.

Wildlife expert R P Soni, Pench Tiger Reserve refuted the claim of Covid-19 spreading among the tigers but advised zookeepers across MP to be cautious. “They come in contact with suppliers of meat and food,” he pointed out.

Zoo authorities have put their staff or those who have been supplying meat and food to the animals on alert .

Those supplying meat and food to the zoo are being allowed in after safety precautions. A separate slaughterhouse has been created for the zoo here,” said Upendra Yadav, in charge of Gwalior zoo.

“Owing to the communicable and zoonotic nature of the disease (Covid-19), action needs to be taken to avert the disease among wild tigers in India,” says Dr Mathur’s letter.

To prevent Covid-19 cases in the wild, the zoo authorities have decided to sanitise the zoo area every alternate day. “We are sanitising the zoo to prevent from the pandemic. We have also instructed the zoo staffs to ensure that everyone around the animals wear masks and gloves,” Yadav said.

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