A tiger at Ranchi’s Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park. (HT archive)
A tiger at Ranchi’s Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park. (HT archive)

Tiger dies at Ranchi zoo, samples sent for testing after Covid ruled out

Rapid antigen tests have been found to be less accurate than the polymerase chain reaction tests, which are considered the gold standard for detecting Covid-19
PUBLISHED ON JUN 04, 2021 02:12 PM IST

A 10-year-old tiger died at Ranchi’s Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park after showing symptoms such as fever on Thursday night, officials said on Friday and added a rapid antigen test ruled out Covid-19 but the big cat’s samples were being sent for advanced testing. The park, which now has nine tigers, has procured kits to test all the carnivores for Covid there.

“...we are sending the swab, blood samples and [a] lung [of the tiger] to IVRI [Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareilly] for more detailed investigation and find out if the animal was infected with any coronavirus like disease,” said O P Sahu, a veterinary doctor at the park. Sahu added the tiger’s blood test suggested liver and kidney infection and that the rapid antigen test was conducted on Friday morning.

Rapid antigen tests have been found to be less accurate than the polymerase chain reaction tests, which are considered the gold standard for detecting Covid-19.

Eight Asiatic lions at the Hyderabad zoo tested positive for Covid-19 in May. It was the first such instance in the country and prompted the Centre to order the closure of all national parks, sanctuaries, and national zoological parks. The lions were isolated and have since recovered while similar cases have been reported from other parts of the country.

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The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has sent guidelines and advisories to the zoos -- ranging from prevention to sample collection to detection in suspected cases to safety protocols for animal keepers -- amid the surge in Covid-19 cases. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, there is currently no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading the coronavirus disease to humans. It said in an advisory on its website that more studies are needed to understand if and how different animals could be affected by Sars-CoV-2, and that Covid-19 can spread from people to animals in some situations, especially during close contact.

A four-member veterinary doctors’ team was on Friday due to conduct the post-mortem on the tiger, who was brought to Ranchi from Bengaluru’s Bannerghatta Biological Park in November 2014.

Officials said the tiger had a fever on Tuesday which subsided after medication. On Wednesday, the tiger did not eat well. “It did not eat at all on Thursday. Then, we called an expert from Ranchi Veterinary College and a vet from Tata Zoo. We also consulted vets in Hyderabad. The animal was given saline. But it could not survive,” said the park’s director, Y K Das. Das said the tiger was genetically weak. “It was suffering from health issues. Its liver and kidney were comparatively weak.”

Das said the tiger did not show Covid symptoms when asked why a test for the disease was not conducted as per the CZA’s directions.”...we tried to test it for Covid, but the test kit was unavailable. Then, we procured it from outside, which was delivered on Thursday night.” Das said the tiger had been isolated from the beginning. “We have procured 24 test kits and Covid tests will be conducted of all the carnivores...”

Praveen Kumar, an assistant professor at Ranchi Veterinary College who examined the tiger, said by then, its condition had deteriorated. “We gave saline to the animal with difficulties, as its vein was not found. The Covid test kit was brought but the test could not be conducted on Thursday night, as diluents were missing in the kit.” Kumar said he does not suspect it to be coronavirus.

DS Srivastava, a former state wildlife board member, blamed the park for negligence. “The tiger fell seriously sick amid Covid pandemic. Why was the Covid test done at the first stage? Even if the tiger was not suffering from coronavirus, why it was not given proper treatment from specialist doctors.”

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