HYDERABAD: In perhaps the first such case in the country, reports about eight Asiatic Lions testing positive for COVID-19 has come from Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad.
This surprising yet shocking news has spread considerable fear in the public especially among pet owners. Sources told media that on April 29, the Centre for Cellular & Molecular Biology (CCMB) had informed the zoo officials regarding the positive RT-PCR tests of the lions.
DR Siddhanand Kukrety, the curator and director of Nehru Zoological Park (NZP) however has neither denied nor confirmed the same.
He said that the lions did show Covid symptoms but the RT-PCR reports are yet to be received from CCMB and hence he could not make any comment as of now.
According to sources, on April 24, the zoo veterinarians working in the park noticed the lions kept in the safari showing COVID-19 like loss of appetite, nasal discharge, and coughing. The NZ Park has a total of 12 lions aged around 10 years. 8 among the 12 were found affected by the symptoms.
As soon as the symptoms were verified, the management advised them to take samples. Zoo vets took oropharyngeal swab samples of the lions and sent them to the CCMB in Hyderabad. The scientist at CCMB will further do genome sequencing to identify if the virus strain has been transferred from human beings.
On May 1, it was announced that the Nehru Zoological Park would be closed for visitors until further orders. The circular issued by the state’s Chief Wildlife Warden came in view of the rapid spread of coronavirus. Over 25 park staff were also tested corona positive recently.
The Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change, New Delhi has ordered to close all Zoological Parks, National Parks, Tiger Reserves, and Wildlife Sanctuaries for visitors till further orders for prevention of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Based on the ministry’s orders, the Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad, the Kakatiya Zoological Park in Warangal, Kawal and Amrabad Tiger Reserves, and all National and Wildlife Sanctuaries of Telangana have been shut down to prevent the spread of the virus among wildlife.