In view of the spread of COVID 19 in the country and a recent news report on a Tiger being infected with the COVID 19 in New York City, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has issued an advisory regarding containing and management of COVID-19 in National Parks, Sanctuaries and Tiger Reserves as it is felt that there are possibilities of spread of the virus among animals in National Parks, Sanctuaries and Tiger Reserves and also transmission of the virus from humans to animals and vice-versa.
The advisory has asked Chief Wildlife Wardens of all States and Union Territories to:
- Take immediate preventive measures to stop the transmission and spread of the virus from humans to animals and vice versa, in National Parks/Sanctuaries/Tiger Reserves.
- Reduce the human wildlife interface.
- Restrict the movement of people to National Parks/Sanctuaries/Tiger Reserves.
- Constitute a Task Force/Rapid Action Force with Field Managers, Veterinary doctors, Frontline staff, to manage the situation as quickly as possible.
- Create a ‘round the clock’ reporting mechanism with a Nodal Officer for swift management of any cases noticed.
- Set up essential services for emergency treatment of animals and their safe release back to their natural habitats, as and when required.
- Enhance disease surveillance, mapping and monitoring system through coordinated effort amongst various Departments.
- Maintain all other stipulations issued by the Health Ministry in the movement of staff/tourists/villagers, etc. in and around National Parks/Sanctuaries/Tiger Reserves.
- Take other possible steps to control the spread of the virus.
- Report the action taken to this Ministry.
The United States (USA) Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories, in a statement dated 5th April, 2020, has confirmed SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) in a Tiger housed in the Bronx Zoo, New York.
Taking cognizance of the same, the Central Zoo Authority under Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has advised Zoos in the country to remain on highest alertness, watch animals on 24X7 basis, using CCTV for any abnormal behavior/symptoms, keepers/handlers not to be allowed in the vicinity without safety gear preferably PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), isolate & quarantine sick animals, and have least contact while providing feed to animals.
The advisory further stated that Mammals like carnivores especially cat, ferret and primates to be carefully monitored and fortnightly samples of suspect cases to be sent to the designated animal health institutes to initiate COVID-19 testing while following all bio-containment and safety measures required to handle this high risk pathogen as per the national / ICMR guidelines:
- National Institute of High Security Animal Disease (NIHSAD), Bhopal, MP
- National Research Centre on Equines (NRCE), Hisar, Haryana.
- Centre for Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic (CADRAD), Indian Veterinary Research Institute, (IVRI), Izatnagar, Bareilly, UP.
The Central Zoo Authority has advised that all zoo personnel to strictly adhere to safety and disinfection protocol issued by the Government, time to time, on Novel Corona Virus Disease (COVID-19).
Further, zoos are advised to coordinate with designated nodal agencies of the Government responsible for public health response and permit screening, testing and surveillance and diagnostic samples as and when required by the nodal agency.