Hassan: After a Malayan tiger Nadia tested positive for the COVID-19 and six other big cats showing symptoms of illness at Bronx Zoo, New York, National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Central Zoo Authority (CZA) have issued advisory to the tiger reserves and Zoos.
It has been advised that the tigers be observed for symptoms of COVID-19 such as nasal discharge, coughing and labored breathing through direct observation to the extent possible and also through camera trap images of visible symptoms both in captivity and in natural habitat.
Karnataka has the second largest tiger population in the country with 424 of them in the tiger estimation of 2019 from tiger reserves of Bandipur, Nagarahole, Kali, Bhadra and BR Hills besides some in non-protected areas of the State.
To make the matters worst, the biggest zoo is in Mysuru and most of the big tiger reserves are also around Mysuru, which has become hotspot of COVID-19 outbreak in Karnataka.
One of the prominent tiger reserves of the country, Nagarahole which is having highest density of tigers in the country and its Director and Conservator of Forests Mahesh told Deccan Chronicle that there are 63 camps inside the Nagarahole and staffs have been provided with groceries for about a month so that they could not come into contact with outside people so as to attract any disease in them, if any.
Besides, face masks have been provided to them and none of the staffs of the Nagarahole have found to have health issues particularly COVID-19 symptoms in them.
To keep track of about 110 tigers in Nagarahole, Mahesh says that cameras will be installed to monitor the movements of tigers, leopards and leopard cats for observing any nasal discharge, coughing or any other symptoms of speedy action to “isolate” such animals among other measures.
Safaris and eco-tourism activities have been suspended across the State following COVID-19 threat.
In Zoos across the State, as many as 51 tigers, 33 lions and 96 leopards are accommodated and now are under constant observation for COVID-19 symptoms in them.
Among the big cats in captivity in nine zoos of the State its Member-Secretary and APCCF B.P. Ravi said ever since there was a case of a domestic cat affected by COVID-19 in Belgium, all precautionary measures were initiated in the Zoo such as non-entry of visitors, thermal screening of the staffs, food suppliers asked to wear face masks, sanitizers for staffs among others precautionary measures.
“We have successful combated HINI at Zoos in the past by initiating all precautionary measures and our staffs and veterinarians have enough experienced to handle such situations with care,” stated Mr Ravi.
“Those personnel coming from containment zones were asked not to entry Zoos so that any disease in then, if at all any, gets transmitted to the animals in the zoos,” stated Ravi and said that “We are more worried of primates such as Chimps since they are handled by staffs while tigers, lions and leopards social distancing has been maintained at the zoos.”