Animal safety measures in place at Punjab's Chhatbir Zoo after tiger test COVID-19 positive in US
Chandigarh: Mahendra Chaudhary Zoological Park or Chhatbir Zoo in Punjab has put in place a series of measures for animal safety including minimizing interface between animals and humans after a tiger in a US zoo tested positive for coronavirus, officials said on Thursday.
All animals in the state’s largest zoo, which is spread over 505 acres, are healthy and are being monitored regularly, zoo officials said.
“All animals are safe, no symptoms have been found in anyone.
“Taking precaution after the American zoo incident, we have put in place series of measures to keep the animals safe,” the Zoo’s field director, M Sudhagar told PTI.
The zoo is currently closed to public in view of the nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
He said the zoo, which has 1400 animals and birds, has also restricted the number of employees to less than one-third these days and they too are only those who are either living in the zoo colony or within the 2-km periphery.
“This is to ensure we can keep a close tab on them and who all they come into contact with. In the zoo, we have put in place two-layer sanitization. Severe screening is carried out. All vehicles are sanitized before entry.
“Then we sort out the workers who directly handle the animals, they are given extra protective clothing, masks, gloves and gum boots,” he said.
Sudhagar said a dedicated person has been deputed for each animal.
“For example a single person will be working with tiger, he will not be changed in rotation. Even while going inside the shelter, he will not touch the animal and maintain distance. In case if under any circumstances animal handling is required, it will be under supervision of an expert who will go inside with personal protection equipment,” he said.
On rotational basis, a supervisor and a security officer has been deputed. Besides, a Quick Response Team has also been deputed.
“We are closely monitoring the animals. In case if any symptoms are found in the animals, we have the facility to quarantine and treat them. Samples will be sent for testing to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute and another lab at Hisar,” he said.
Sudhagar informed that the zoo has six adults and three cubs of Royal Bengal tiger. The cubs are three months old, he said.
“Apart from this, we have seven lions, five leopards, one jaguar, two jungle cats, apart from other canine and omnivorous species.
“Our advantage is that the zoo’s housing design is highly protective, which helps to minimize human-animal interaction,” he said.
He said entry of animal, release of animal, separation of animals and others can be regulated from outside the animal houses.
“Whenever we require to clean the area, we can easily clean from outside and then go inside and clean after taking all protective measures,” the zoo official said.
Asked if any change in animal behaviour has been noticed as there is no public entry these days and zoo staff too has been pruned, he said, “Definitely, the animals are slightly less stressed, they are having full freedom. But still it is too early to arrive at any conclusion and may be around next month we will know their exact behaviour pattern”.
To boost immunity of animals, they are being given vitamin supplements and herbal tonics.
Extra precaution is being taken while handling and washing meat. Separate trays and separate vehicles are kept for carnivores.
He informed that an adult tiger consumes around 8 kg, lion around 6-7 kg, while leopard around 4 kg of meat a day.
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