Under the projects, the common zoonotic infections, different strains of pathogens and infection mode from animals to humans and vice versa will be studied.
All the developments happen at a time when the National Conservation Tiger Authority and Central Zoo Authority had also sounded an alert for all tiger states in the country following the conformation of a tiger death due to COVID-19 infection at a zoo in New York. Another case of a wild tiger found dead with respiratory infection in Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh is also under investigation.
“In January a project proposal with presentation on coronavirus and the looming zoonotic threats were presented before the Commission and within the same month, the projects mooted by the AIWCR were sanctioned by the Planning Commission,” said AIWCR director and additional principal chief conservator of forests Shekhar Kumar Niraj. Refusing to share technical details of the study, Niraj said that studies will have a long-term impact on zoonotic infections and will help the state understand these viruses better. In my opinion, the death of the tiger in New York zoo should be a case of animal to animal viral infection. The Pench tiger case is also not a pandemic, but the scientists have collected viscera for further studies, Shekhar opined.
Meanwhile, TN forest officials confirmed that the NTCA and CZA has directed the state to follow a strict protocol in all its zoo. A communication to all state Chief Wildlife Wardens advised animal handlers not to be allowed in the vicinity of animal enclosure, without safety gear, preferably PPE (personal protective equipment). The communique also insisted on quarantine of sick animals.
The note also pointed out that the carnivores, especially wild cats like lion, tiger, leopard and primates (monkeys and langurs) needed to be carefully monitored. The central agencies also asked the zoos to send samples of suspect cases to the designated animal health institutes to initiate COVID-19 testing.