Hyderabad: The Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad announced on 4 May that eight Asiatic lions housed in the zoo had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 virus commonly known as COVID-19. The ministry of environment, forest, and climate change on Tuesday said the samples revealed that the infection was not caused by any variant of concern.This marks the first time the virus has been found at an Indian zoo since the pandemic broke out.

Based on experience with zoo animals elsewhere in the world that experienced SARS-CoV-2 cases last year, there is no factual evidence that animals can transmit the disease to humans any further, the ministry said.

On 24 April, the Hyderabad zoo authorities had shared samples with CCMB's Laboratory for the Conservation of Endangered Species (LaCONES) of the eight lions after they showed signs of respiratory distress. Based on detailed diagnostic tests and reports, CCMB-LaCONES confirmed on Tuesday that the eight Asiatic lions have tested positive for coronavirus.

The ministry of environment, forest, and climate change said the eight lions have been isolated and due care and necessary treatment has been provided. It said that all the eight lions have responded well to the treatment and are recovering. They are behaving normally and eating well. Meanwhile, preventive measures are already in place for all zoo staff and the zoo has been closed to visitors to avoid minimal external contact.

The Central Zoo Authority has taken several pre-emptive measures, including the issuance of guidelines and advisories to the zoos regarding precautions to be undertaken in the light of increasing number of cases of SARS-CoV-2.

The ministry informed that guidelines for prevention, sample collection, detection in suspected cases, and safety protocols for animal keepers have been suggested to zoos in consultation with scientific agencies and experts from the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), Uttar Pradesh, and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology – Laboratory for Conservation of Endangered Species (CCMB-LaCONES), Hyderabad.


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