Death of two sloth bears in Odisha’s Nandankanan zoo spreads panic
The authorities are worried about the spread of a contagious disease threatening the life of other zoo inmates.Updated: Sep 19, 2020, 08:57 IST
Death of two sloth bears in two days in Bhubaneswar’s Nandankanan Zoological Park, among the 14 big zoos of the country, has sent the zoo authorities into a tizzy with the officials worried over the possible spread of some sort of bacterial or viral infection.
On Thursday, a 25-year-old female sloth bear named Aarti died with multiple haemorrhages, a day after a 7-year-old male sloth bear Debashish had died with similar symptoms. Aarti, brought from Ranchi zoo in September 2013, was the centre of attraction in Nandankanan as she often climbed trees and played with her off-springs when visitors crowded around her enclosure.
“The exact cause of deaths of these two bears is not yet known. The post-mortem reports said it could be bacterial and viral infections. We are waiting for more confirmation about the deaths from the centre for wildlife health in Odisha University of agriculture and technology in Bhubaneswar,” said Shashi Paul, director of Nandankanan Zoological Park. “The female sloth bear did not have any issues till the previous evening. It suddenly developed symptoms and died the next day. The male sloth bear was quite sick for some time.”
Paul said though the zoo was left with 15 sloth bears that are housed in separate enclosures, there is some concern over a communicable disease spreading around. “Two more bears which showed mild symptoms earlier have been isolated and necessary bio safety measures are being taken. We have sent the samples of the two dead sloth bears to Indian veterinary research institute (IVRI) Bareilly for more tests and confirmation about any viral disease,” he said.
On August 30, a 28-year-old Himalayan black bear named Chulu had died. But officials said it probably died due to old age as bears are known to live for about 30 years. With over 3,000 wild animals, Nandankanan zoo is among the 14 big zoos of the country.
Last year, Nandankanan had a big scare when four of the eight elephants died in a span of a month due to Elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus that decreased the platelet count in elephants, leading to internal bleeding.
The zoo, shut for over 6 months due to Covid lockdown, has seen around half a dozen deaths including that of a king cobra, an anaconda, a monkey and Brahminy kite among other animals. With no visitors in the last 6 months, the zoo has lost around Rs 6 crore in revenue that it would have earned through ticket sales. It sees footfall of around 30 to 35 lakh people in a year.
However, the revenue shortfall has not affected the supply of meat and other food items as budgetary provisions have already been made before the lockdown started. The zoo authorities took a number of steps including isolation of the animals that were to be slaughtered for the meal of the carnivorous animals.
Officials said the zoo is likely to be reopened in the first week of October under strict Covid-19 guidelines and a fixed number of visitors would be allowed. “We would not start a safari ride and there would be no battery-operated vehicles due to social distancing guidelines,” Paul said.