Another lioness at the Etawah Lion Safari is reportedly infected with canine distemper, which killed an adult lion (Kuber) on Thursday taking the death toll at the Safari to nine. A total of two lions, two lionesses and five cubs have died in the safari since October 2014.
“Kunwari, an adult lioness, was also quarantined along with Kuber after she was found positive for canine distemper virus,” said Anil Patel, director, Etawah Lion Safari. “The lioness continues to be in quarantine but her condition is stable and being monitored by scientists of Indian Institute of Veterinary Research (IVRI), Bareilly,” he added.
The scientists were also monitoring Kuber who succumbed to complications arising from secondary infections aided by canine distemper. “Kuber passed away at around 8 am on Thursday and the corpse was sent to IVRI for the post-mortem,” Patel said.
At IVRI, the autopsy was conducted by a team of scientists in the presence of senior wildlife officials. In-charge of Center of Wildlife at IVRI, Dr AK Sharma, who monitored the post-mortem, said, “We have collected samples from the animal (Kuber) and sent the same to several departments for confirmatory tests. Prima facie the death was caused by canine distemper but details about the secondary infections can only be revealed after these tests.”
As canine distemper is highly contagious, sources claimed that other lions at the Etawah Safari were also under threat. However, officials insisted there were no such threats. “In a recent test, the animals were found negative for the infection but we are planning to conduct another test following Kuber’s death,” said Sharma.
According to Sharma, there is no standard vaccine against the canine distemper virus to be used in lions and other animals kept in captivity. The lions are administered vaccines meant for dogs. “The effect of the vaccine has never been tested on lions, which raises questions on its effectiveness,” said Sharma.
Kuber was born in the Gir forest area, Gujarat, on October 10, 2011. He was transferred to Etawah Lion Safari last year. He was the biggest (in size) adult lion at the Safari. Kuber mated with a lioness (Tapasya) who gave birth to five cubs last year. However, all the cubs died. Tapasya was also reported infected with a deadly parasite, but she recovered after treatment.