The samples of 56 elephants from Kozhikamuthi elephant camp in Topslip and Theppakadu elephant camp in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) were sent for COVID-19 testing on Tuesday. A statement from TN Forest Minister K Ramachandran instructed the officials to collect samples of the elephants at the camps and send them to Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Izatnagar, Uttar Pradesh.
Based on the instructions, two medical teams along with a veterinary surgeon collected the trunk wash sample and rectal swabs from all the elephants and sent them for analysis on Tuesday. As of now, the elephants are healthy and do not show any symptoms for the virus or other illnesses.
Addressing the reporters after holding inspections at Topslip, Minister K Ramachandran said, “Last week Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Stalin visited Vandalur zoo and conducted an inspection since lions tested positive at the zoo. As a continuation, he instructed us to conduct tests in all the sanctuaries to check for coronavirus infection.”
“On Tuesday, as part of the drive, I have come to Kozhikamuthi elephant camp in Topslip. There are 28 elephants in Topslip and 28 elephants in Theppakadu. So, we are testing the swabs through two different teams. The samples will be sent to Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Izatnagar, Uttar Pradesh,” he said. Based on the result, action will be taken, he added.
However, the minister explained that till now the infection has not spread to elephants and they are conducting the tests only as a precautionary measure.
The tests for elephants come after a lioness died of a suspected coronavirus infection and eight other lions tested positive at Vandalur zoo in Chennai. On May 26, a release from the zoo said five lions started coughing and showed signs of loss of appetite. Following this, an expert committee was formed and 11 samples of the lions were sent for testing. However, a nine-year-old lioness Neela died on June 3 even before the results arrived. The lioness was largely asymptomatic and showed nasal discharge only on June 2. Later, the results showed that nine of the 11 lions are positive for SARS CoV-2. The lions are provided treatment and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Stalin conducted inspections at Vandalur zoo last week.
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