Poman, the 12-year-old female leopard at Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), has been found suffering from a bacterial infection that affects kidneys, liver and the brain.
Since rodents and their infected urine are the most common carriers of this bacterium, questions are being raised about the hygiene standards in and around leopard enclosures and also regarding the leopard handlers.
Poman’s blood samples were sent to Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Bareilly, a fortnight ago, after she became ill and stopped eating. IVRI officials found the presence of anti-bodies in her blood, indicating that her body was fighting a bacterial infection.
The IVRI’s principal scientist Dr AK Sharma and Wildlife Institute of India’s PK Malik visited the leopard rescue centre. “We have recommended SGNP officials to draw blood samples of all 15 leopards to check for infections,” said Dr Sharma.
“We also asked them to send another set of blood samples after a month to see if Poman is recovering,” said Dr Sharma.
After the diagnosis, Poman was administered a dose of antibiotics, after which she started eating. “She is eating 1.5 to 2kg of meat every day and she has been kept in a separate cage,” said Vikas Gupta, director, SGNP.
Dr Sharma said, “Leptospira infection can affect vital organs and cause jaundice. Luckily, it was detected early. Leopards should be moved to bigger and cleaner enclosures.”
Wildlife expert Vidya Atherya agreed, “These leopards need spacious and hygienic enclosures.”
Just before Poman took ill, another female leopard, Netra, 13, died — the third leopard death in a month. After testing Netra’s viscera samples, IVRI officials had ruled an outbreak of canine distemper infection.