Covid outbreak among tigers pushes India to shut down reserves

The Indian government has ordered the temporary closure of all tiger reserves, after a spate of Covid-19 cases in zoos across the country. The National Tiger Conservation Authority, an agency of the Department of the Environment, issued the order on Monday, following the death of a asiatic lioness, positive for Covid a few days earlier. “This latest example of an animal contaminated with Covid-19 once again indicates that there is a high probability that the disease will be transmitted from humans to wild animals in captivity, affirms the official statement. The same type of transmission is likely to occur in tiger reserves. “

To prevent the tigers from becoming infected, all reserves must therefore end their tourist activities until further notice. Tigers are an endangered species, with less than 4,000 individuals on Earth. Several thousand of them live on their dedicated reserves in India, which has seen their population increase in recent years thanks to conservation efforts, precise CNN.

Lions in quarantine

The last source of contamination to date was in the Arignar Anna Zoological Park, in the city of Chennai (south-east of the country), the state government of Tamil Nadu said in a press release. Several Asian lions, another endangered species with only a few hundred individuals, showed symptoms of the coronavirus. On Thursday, June 3, the 9-year-old lioness Neela died. At this time, it cannot be said with certainty whether illness was the direct cause of his death.

Zoo officials and a team of vets immediately quarantined all of the lions and began treatment with antibiotics. The team also took samples from lions, tigers and other large mammals, in order to test them, hoping that genetic sequencing would reveal which strain of the virus infected them.

These events come as India is barely emerging from the second wave of contaminations that has ravaged the country and reached its peak in early May. “It is surely no coincidence that the transmission of the virus to animals occurs in particular in India, where the number of cases is high”, says Nikolaus Osterrieder, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Life Sciences at City University of Hong Kong. “The more cases there are in humans, the more likely the animals are to be infected.”

Epidemics in zoos “Only emphasize that humans can transmit viruses to animals, and not just the other way around, did he declare. We must always pay attention to it. ” Big cats like lions and tigers are particularly vulnerable to serious illnesses, says Nikolaus Osterrieder. These already endangered species must therefore face a new threat.

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