In what appears to be the first of its kind case in India, eight Asiatic lions have tested positive for coronavirus in Hyderabad zoo. The Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology told the Nehru Zoological Park (NZP) on April 29 that the RT-PCR tests of these lions had come out positive for coronavirus.
Curator and Director of NZP Dr. Siddhanand Kukrety did not officially confirm the news. “It’s true that the lions showed Covid symptoms but I’m yet to receive the RT-PCR reports from the CCMB and hence it will not be proper to comment. The lions are doing well,” said Dr. Kukrety to The Economic Times
Dr. Shirish Upadhye, director of Wildlife Research & Training Centre (WRTC), said that after eight tigers and lions tested positive for coronavirus in Bronx Zoo, no other such reports have emerged. The virus was, however, found in dogs and cats in Hong Kong, he said.
NZP officials decided to test the lions for coronavirus after wildlife veterinarians working in the park noticed coronavirus-like symptoms including loss of appetite, nasal discharge, and coughing among the lions. Four males and four females each tested positive out of the 12 lions in the 40-acre safari area.
The management advised the veterinarians to take samples after they informed the officials of the lions’ symptoms. Oropharyngeal (part of the pharynx between the soft palate and the hyoid bone) swab samples of the lions were taken and sent to the CCMB in Hyderabad.
The daily stated that CCMB scientists will now do genome sequencing to figure out if this strain came from animals or human beings. The case of lions triggered the MoEFCC to issue a detailed advisory on April 30 to chief wildlife wardens asking them to shut all national parks, sanctuaries, and tiger reserves over fears of transmission.
The NZP has been closed to the public for two days. Recently 25 park staff tested positive for coronavirus.