Coronavirus India: Zoos on alert

ST Staff
Thursday, 9 April 2020

After a tiger was found COVID-19 positive in a zoo in New York, Biosphere, an NGO based out of Pune, has written a letter to Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar asking him to take the necessary precautions to help conserve the dwindling biota of the country.

Pune: After a tiger was found COVID-19 positive in a zoo in New York, Biosphere, an NGO based out of Pune, has written a letter to Union Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Prakash Javadekar asking him to take the necessary precautions to help conserve the dwindling biota of the country.

However, the Central Zoo Authority under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has advised zoos in the country to remain on alert and watch animals closely, using CCTVs for any abnormal behaviour or symptoms. It advised that keepers and handlers not to be allowed in the vicinity without safety gear preferably PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and isolate sick animals, and have the least contact while providing feed to animals.

Looking at the communicable and zoonotic nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the letter states that the initiatives need to be taken to ward off possible infectious disease in captive, domestic and wild populations of animals. Sample from these animals can be collected from various parts of India which include plasma of body tissues, faecal matter, urine, sputum after following the standard sampling norms to study whether the animals are infected. Similarly, fresh faecal samples, urine or sputum of domestic dogs, stray dogs, and domestic cats need to be assessed.

Sachin Punekar, Founder President of Biosphere, said, “I have spoken to NIV scientists who have informed that faecal material can be used for assessment. There are many endangered breeds, and if it is communicable in animals, they might get affected. Since there are many cases of coronavirus, it is a possibility that it might get transferred from humans to household animals, so it is important to assess their samples as well.”

The letter proposes to establish a temporary squad or panel of experts from regional areas to handle the bio-disastrous situation.

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