The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has alerted all zoos across India to take preventive measures to avert a possible outbreak of Trypanosomiasis – a protozoan disease that have, in the past, killed more than a dozen tigers and leopards in Indian zoos.
The alert, in the form of a circular marked as ‘urgent’, was issued on March 6 following the death of a wild dog at the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park in Vishakhapatnam recently.
“We have sent the alert to all large, medium, small and mini zoos across India, chief wildlife wardens of all the states, around 13 civic bodies and four steel plants. These civic bodies and steel plants also maintain small zoos with the permission of the CZA” said Brij Kishor Gupta evaluating and monitoring officer of CZA.
Experts said that Trypanosomiasis is usually spread by flies which thrive in unhygienic conditions. It is mostly the big cats that get infected resulting in death in many cases. The infected animals may or may not show symptoms such as fever, loss of appetite, anaemia among others.
“This time, however, it has infected a wild dog. It died of spleenomegaly (enlargement of the spleen). We immediately brought it to the notice of the CZA as the same disease had struck the Nandankanan Zoo in the outskirts of Bhubaneshwar killing around 11 tigers in 2000,” said Vijay Kumar curator of the Indira Gandhi Zoological Park at Vishakhapatnam.
The CZA has advised zoos to improve the hygiene of animal enclosures and its surroundings by cleaning weeds, sewer lines and moats, screening of animals against infestation of parasites, carrying out blood tests in a systematic and phased manner to identify incidence of blood bourne parasites among others.
Zoos have also been asked to keep stock of medicines to tackle emergencies in case there is an outbreak and constitute a health advisory committee comprising experienced veterinarians. The zoo keepers have been advised to take all types of precautions such as wearing aprons, gloves and masks while handling animals.
“We have asked the zoos to submit an action taken report of what measures they have taken to prevent any possible outbreak of the disease particularly among carnivores,” said Gupta.
Experts claimed that even though Trypanosomiasis usually attacks wild animals and sometimes domestic animals, have also been found to jump to humans in some cases in a few cases.
“We had records of only three children and one adult being affected with Trypanosomiasis in the 1990s. It is however curable,” said UVS Rana former joint director of the zoonosis division of the National Centre for Disease Control in Delhi.
Earlier the CZA had issued an alert to all zoos following the death of some birds because of avian influenza in the Delhi zoo. The Delhi zoo had to be shut down for nearly three months.