Lioness dies of Covid, tiger too suspected victim
A 9-year-old lioness, Neela, died in the Arignar Anna Zoological Park or Vandalur Zoo outside Chennai on Thursday after a Covid-19 outbreak among Asiatic lions was reported, the Tamil Nadu government said on Friday. A tiger is also suspected to have died of Covid in a Ranchi zoo on Thursday night.
Nine of 13 lions in Vandalur Zoo were tested for the virus a few days ago.
“A few of the lions were symptomatic and one of them, a 9-year-old lioness, Neela, succumbed to the disease,” a forest department statement said. A statement from the zoo earlier in the day said the lioness had been asymptomatic and showed nasal discharge on June 2 and was treated symptomatically immediately.
The forest department said other lions have been quarantined and senior vets from the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) are supervising treatment, which has started with antibiotics and prophylactic drugs.
At Ranchi’s Bhagwan Birsa Biological Park, a 10-year-old tiger died showing Covid symptoms such as fever on Thursday night, officials said on Friday, adding that a rapid antigen test indicated the animal did not have a Covid-19 infection and 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.
“...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 to find out if the animal was infected with any coronavirus-like disease,” said OP 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. The RT-PCR test results are expected to come by Saturday.
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, YK Das. Das said the tiger was genetically weak. “It was suffering from health issues. Its liver and kidney were comparatively weak.”
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.
According to the United States Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention, there is currently no evidence that animals play a significant role in spreading Covid-19 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.