Hyderabad: In the first such case, at least four lions at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park (zoo) at Vandalur, near Chennai, were found carrying the high infectious delta variant, that dominated the second wave of the pandemic in India and elsewhere, causing concern among zoo officials.
Of the 11 lions in the zoo, nine had tested positive for Covid-19 earlier this month. Of these, two died of the disease and the rest are undergoing treatment.
Zoo director Debasis Jana told Deccan Chronicle on Friday that the 11 infected lions were housed in two sectors of the zoo; some in the safari park and the others in the display enclosure. “The two areas are at least a kilometre apart,” Jana said.
He said the samples from the lions were sent to the National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal, in the last week of May in two batches. NIHSAD conducts research on exotic and emerging pathogens of animals in the country.
“We were not lucky, two of our lions have died from Covid-19. The other zoos in India, the Nehru Zoological Park, and the ones at Jaipur in Rajasthan and Etawah in Madhya Pradesh are lucky. They did not have any fatalities among their lions that caught Covid-19,” Jana said.
Jana added: “This delta variant that Bhopal has found perhaps explains to some extent what the animals were fighting against. The other zoos may have had other Coronavirus variants, and their lions recovered from the brink. Here, two have died. Very sad.”
He said the zoo’s veterinarians have been working hard to treat and care for the lions. “Some of them have lost members of their families in these past few weeks but they did not go home. Instead, they stayed put at the zoo to look after the lions. Based on the experiences of the other zoos, our vets have been giving their best,” he said.
“It is clear that it was an asymptomatic person that was the cause of the infection. And there is a long chain. Captive animals have to be practically spoon-fed. From the time the meat leaves the supplier and it goes to the animals, it passes through various hands. It is not a foolproof system but the entire staff at the Vandalur zoo has been vaccinated against Covid19. Every day, basic temperature and symptom checks are conducted,” Jana said....