Hyderabad: In perhaps the first such reported incident, eight Asiatic lions in the zoo here have tested positive for COVID-19. This development came to light after the saliva samples of the Asiatic lions were thoroughly examined by CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology here. This information was given Tuesday by Rakesh Mishra who is the advisor of the premier research institute.
“The saliva samples of the Asiatic lions were thoroughly tested and they turned out to be positive. As they were living closely it must have been spread among them,” Mishra told this agency. “Now we are developing a method to test the samples of their faeces. This method would be useful in future as every time it is not possible to collect saliva samples from wild animals,” Mishra added.
Mishra also said the virus which is present in the lions at the Nehru Zoological Park here is not any new variant. “They (lions) have mild symptoms and they are eating well and they are fine,” he said.
Replying to a query, Mishra said there is every possibility of animals contracting the virus. This is because they are also mammals like human beings. Mishra further said these animals must have got infected through zoo-keeping staff.
A senior official of the zoo said they keep sending the samples of the animals to CCMB from time to time for analysis. As the lions started showing symptoms such as fever, the zoo officials collected the samples and sent them to CCMB.
The official further said the samples from the wild animals will be collected either by ‘Squeeze cage’ method or by tranquilising them.
In view of rapid spread of the coronavirus in India, the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change, recently issued an advisory. It asked authorities to close all zoological parks, national parks, tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries for visitors.
Accordingly, the zoo here, Kakatiya Zoological Park, Warangal, Kawal and Amrabad Tiger Reserves, all National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Telangana were closed from May 2.