The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) on April 6th, 2020 asked all zoos across the country to remain on ‘highest alertness’ and monitor animals 24×7 for any “abnormal behaviour”, after a tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York tested positive for the deadly novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
The 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. All zoos across the country are presently closed because of the lockdown.
“Zoos in the country, are therefore, 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 whole providing feed to animals,” the CZA, the apex body for all zoos in India, said.
A four-year-old female Malayan tiger named Nadia tested positive for the coronavirus at the Bronx Zoo. She has become the first of her kind to test positive for the highly contagious coronavirus.
According to the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo, Nadia has developed a dry cough and is expected to recover. Five other tigers and lions at the zoo also began showing symptoms of respiratory illness.
The advisory also mentioned, “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.”
The zoos have also been directed to take preventive measures to stop the transmission and spread of the virus from humans to animals and vice versa, in National Parks/Sanctuaries/Tiger Reserves.
“Reduce the human-wildlife interface. Constitute a Task Force/Rapid Action Force with Field Managers, Veterinary doctors, frontline staff, to manage the situation as quickly as possible,” the advisory mentioned.
It also added, “Set up essential services for emergency treatment of animals and their safe release back to their natural habitats, as and when required. Enhance disease surveillance, mapping and monitoring system through coordinated effort amongst various departments.”