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Thursday, Nov 14, 2019

Assam forest dept on its toes after anthrax kills feral buffalo in Pobitora

Forest officials are pulling out all the stops to contain the spread of anthrax that can have a deadly affect on the relatively small wildlife sanctuary of Pobitora.

india Updated: Oct 20, 2019 17:31 IST
Sadiq Naqvi
Sadiq Naqvi
Hindustan Times, Guwahati
At Pobitora wildlife sanctuary, more than 100 rhinos inhabit in a 16 sq km area.
At Pobitora wildlife sanctuary, more than 100 rhinos inhabit in a 16 sq km area.(AP)
         

The Assam forest department has initiated urgent measures to check the outbreak of anthrax after one of the two feral buffaloes found dead inside the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary (PWS) tested positive for infection, officials said.

The wildlife sanctuary in Morigaon district is also home to more than 100 endangered one-horned rhinoceros.

Jitendra Kumar, Divisional Forest Officer, Wildlife, Guwahati said that the veterinarians have confirmed anthrax as the cause of death of the feral buffaloes whose carcasses were found on Wednesday.

Parikshit Kakoti, senior programme officer veterinary, WWF India, said he found dark red, blackish blood oozing out of the nostrils of one of the two buffalo carcasses found within a distance of 100 metres from each other when he arrived at the spot on Thursday leading to the suspicion that it could be anthrax. The other carcass was already decomposed, he explained.

“The sample was sent to two labs including the North Eastern Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory and the College of Veterinary Science. Both the reports on Saturday note anthrax as the provisional diagnosis,” Kakoti said adding that the same infection is likely to have caused the death of the second buffalo.

Around 102 rhinos of the PWS, as per the 2018 census, inhabit just a 16 square kilometer area of the 38 square kilometers that forms the wildlife sanctuary. Kumar said the carcasses were found in the area inhabited by the rhinos.

Since anthrax was being suspected as the cause of death, the carcasses were given a deep burial even as officials tried to disinfect with lime and formaldehyde. The area has also been cordoned off.

“An electric fence, a total of one kilometer in periphery will be erected around the spot to keep other animals away,” Kumar said.

Meanwhile, the ten domesticated elephants and a calf which are used for safaris have also been vaccinated, according to Kumar even as the state’s Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Directorate have issued an advisory and initiated measures to start vaccination of domestic livestock in the peripheral villages. The personnel who dealt with the carcasses are on a ten day preventive antibiotic drug regime.

“We are taking all possible measures to ensure this is checked and does not spread. All animals are susceptible to infection,” said Paresh Sarma, Deputy Director, Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Directorate.

Anthrax, an infectious disease which primarily afflicts herbivores particularly cattle, sheep and horses, can be transferred from animals to humans. Anthrax spores can persist in soil for many years.

Sarma said as many as seven buffaloes died in Kamrup district due to anthrax in 2018 but thisis the first instance in 2019. He also explained anthrax is rare in protected areas. In 2016, in the Kaziranga National Park there was suspicion that seven Asiatic wild buffaloes have died due to anthrax. But the tests were negative.

“Floods may have brought the infection to PWS,” Sarma said.