In a first in the country, eight Asiatic Lions housed in the Nehru Zoological Park (NZP), Hyderabad, tested positive for the deadly Covid 19 virus. This is the first time in the country where humans are known to have infected the animals.
On April 24, 2021 the Zoo curators came across the eight lions showing signs of respiratory distress. The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology- Laboratory for Conservation of Endangered Species (CCMB-LaCONES) tested the samples from the animals. They confirmed that the animals were infected.
Further analyses of the samples revealed that the infection was not caused by any variant of concern. The eight lions have been isolated and due care and necessary treatment provided, the Zoo officials said. They said that all the eight lions have responded well to the treatment and recovering. They are behaving normally and eating well. Preventive measures are already in place for all zoo staff. The officials said that the zoo is closed to visitors to avoid minimal external contact.
In the light of increasing number of cases, the Central Zoo Authority took several pre-emptive measures. This includes issuance of guidelines and advisories to the zoos towards precautions.
The monitoring and 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 of Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) Uttar Pradesh and Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology – Laboratory for Conservation of Endangered Species, Hyderabad. Such advisories are available in public domain
Based on experience with zoo animals elsewhere in the world that have experienced SARS-COV2 positive last year, there is no factual evidence that animals can transmit the disease to humans any further.