The visitors to the zoo have been strictly advised to wear masks as a safety measure.

Thiruvananthapuram zoo PC/Shijan Kaakkara/Wikimediacommons
news Monday, January 23, 2023 - 19:52

A disease that has been diagnosed for the first time in a zoo in Kerala has killed 62 birds and animals. The disease has affected both blackbucks and spotted deer in the Thiruvananthapuram zoo resulting in their death over the past ten months.The animals succumbed to Mycobacterium bovis (M bovis) that causes tuberculosis in animals.

While Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes human tuberculosis (TB), M bovis is a zoonotic pathogen that infects humans and animals causing bovine TB (bTB). A report of a committee with veterinarians will submit a report to the Animal Husbandry minister J Chinchu Rani in a couple of days. The report will have recommendations on how to contain it.

The zoonotic disease (transmitted from humans to animals and vice versa) was detected in samples and deer carcasses sent to the State Institute for Animal Diseases (SIAD) located in Palode, Thiruvananthapuram. The samples have also been sent to the College of Veterinary and Animal Sciences at Mannuthy in Thrissur district.

The disease was diagnosed in the index animal in April 2022, but no case was reported in the following month of May. But six more animals were detected with the disease in June.

“The disease won't be contained immediately. The visitors to the zoo have been strictly advised to wear masks as a safety measure. This is the first time that tuberculosis has been diagnosed in a zoo in Kerala.The disease, however, has been diagnosed at zoos outside the state. This is a common disease detected in animals in the country. When detected in domestic animals they will be culled. In the case of wild animals, the decision will be taken by the authorities concerned like the wildlife warden,” a source told TNM.

The decision on culling affected animals has not been taken yet. “This is a chronic disease that occurs over a period of time. Tuberculosis was detected during the autopsy of the carcasses.There are limitations in testing diseases in wild animals. For example the deer is a sensitive animal, it would be frightened if we do a test on it and we can’t allow animals to die out of fear. Moreover, the disease does not have acute symptoms. But the organism persists in the environment for quite a long period of time and even getting rid of it  is tough as it  can resist all kinds of disinfectants. It can remain in the soil also,” said Nanda Kumar, Assistant Director at SIAD, Palode. 

He added that they have contacted veterinarians of other zoos in the country to gather information on how to contain the disease.

A team from the Centre for Wildlife Studies at SIAD visited the zoo on January 22, Saturday. “A lot of measures have been taken at the zoo to contain the situation, but there are certain things left,” Nandakumar added. 


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