Chennai: A lioness, aged 9, is suspected to have died from COVID-19 on 3 June at Arignar Anna Zoological Park(Vandalur Zoo) in the outskirts of Chennai. She was one among the nine lions which had tested positive at the zoo. The zoo authorities stated that the lioness had been asymptomatic and only had nasal discharge the day before her death for which she was treated promptly. The remaining lions are under close observation and undergoing treatment.

On 26 May 2021, five lions housed at animal house 1 of the safari park Area of Arignar Anna Zoological Park (AAZP), were reported to show anorexia (loss of appetite) and occasional coughing. The in-house veterinary team of the zoo took immediate action to investigate and treat the animals as per protocol.

"On our request, a team of experts was also deputed by Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) to join the veterinarians of the AAZP in investigating and deciding the further course of the treatment regimen. Blood samples were sent to TANUVAS, and nasal and rectal swabs and faecal samples of 11 lions were sent to the National Institute of High Security Diseases (NIHSAD) Bhopal, which is one of the four designated institutes authorised to take up SARS-SoV-2 testing in captive animals," said the zoo. One lioness, Neela, 9, among them, housed at animal house 2 died on 3 June at around 6.15 pm.

As per the laboratory test results furnished by the institute, samples from nine lions out of 11 tested positive for COVID-19. In order to ascertain whether or not the report findings are in the nature of false positives or if the animal has died of comorbidities, samples have also been sent on 4 June to Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareilly and the CCMB, Hyderabad.

The park has been scrupulously following the precautionary measures prescribed on various advisories issued by the Central Zoo Authority, the central and state governments from time to time. Prophylactic measures for the felids, mustelids, viverrids and primates as arrived at in consultations with the expert team of TANUVAS, veterinarians of Hyderabad Zoo and also Bronx Zoo, are being adhered to. All the lions which have tested positive are under close observation and on prescribed treatment regimen by in-house veterinary team in close coordination with the expert team from TANUVAS.

All animal keepers and helpers for the animal houses are vaccinated against COVID-19. Separate sets of animal keepers are engaged for each group of lions. PPE kits are mandatory for animal keepers, veterinary doctors and field staff visiting the area, the zoo stated.



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