For the first time in Madhya Pradesh, a tigress that had died at the Panna national park in September was found to have been carrying the deadly and highly contagious canine distemper virus- usually found in dogs.
The finding has stunned the park management that has now embarked on a joint strategy to check blood samples of all tigers for the virus and has also begun an inoculation campaign of dogs in villages in the buffer zone of the park.
P233, a 2 year old tigress, was abruptly found dead in the reserve in September. The blood samples of the tigress were sent to the Indian veterinary research institute (IVRI) Bareilly. In its report, the IVRI found the presence of the canine distemper virus in the tigress which led to its death.
“The tigress operated in the buffer area of the park that has a number of villages. A possible way for acquiring the virus could be contamination of a kill made by the tigress by dogs carrying the virus,” said field director, Panna tiger reserve, Alok Kumar.
The park management that carries out regular radio collaring of tigers in the reserve has been checking blood samples for presence of the virus in other specimens. Blood samples of 7 tigers that were radio collared recently have been checked for the virus and were found negative.
“From December onwards a program to identify and inoculate dogs against the canine distemper virus will be initiated in 15 villages located in the buffer zone,” said the field director.
The reserve has a total of 32 tigers as of now. Tiger population in Panna had been completely wiped out by December 2008. After this, an introduction program was initiated in March 2009 under which tigers were brought from other habitats and released in the park which later bred and added to the numbers.
Three years ago, a rabid dog had also attacked a tiger in Panna national park. The tiger was later treated and shifted to the Sanjay national park where it died in a territorial fight earlier this year.