After over 70 zoo staffers contracted COVID-19, authorities put the leopard in a special cage to collect samples, where it suffocated.

A leopard looking to the right of the camera, caught mid-roarImage for representation
news Wildlife Thursday, January 20, 2022 - 11:34

After the death of a female leopard in Chennai’s Arignar Anna Zoological Park, the postmortem report of the animal has revealed esophageal rupture and pulmonary hemorrhage as the primary reasons for the death. The leopard, named Jaya, died on Monday, January 17. While authorities initially suspected disease as the cause of death, the report has shown that she was squeezed to death as she was housed in a small and poorly-maintained cage. The postmortem was conducted by the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS).

Over 70 staff members at the zoo have tested positive for the coronavirus, authorities said, which has created a concern for the animals. In 2021, several lions had contracted the virus as well, and two died of the disease. After the zoo staff showed virus symptoms, they were quarantined and it was decided to draw samples on Monday from animals to ascertain if the infection had spread further.

“Though the staff has already been quarantined, we suspected that the animals too would have been infected. So, we decided to perform a swab test on the animals,” the senior official said. The big cats were shifted to a special cage, known as 'squeeze cage,' to facilitate insertion of nasal swabs to collect samples. Autopsy revealed that the female leopard died due to breathing related issues while the lion had died because of esophageal problems. The lion had not been keeping well of late and its food intake had decreased, the official said.

Read: The story of how a Chennai zoo saved 13 lions that had COVID-19

A zoo official, while speaking to IANS on conditions of anonymity, said, "Nasal swab samples of animals, including lions and leopards, were taken and 14 samples were sent to the National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases for testing. The samples of this leopardess were also taken but while releasing the animal the cage got jammed and the animal was squeezed inside. We could not rescue it."

Tamil Nadu Chief WildLife Warden, Shekar Kumar Neeraj told IANS, "National level experts will be roped in for a total review of the management practices in the zoo. Some shortcomings are observed here and I have already written to the Central Zoo Authority to depute expert veterinarians on a consultancy basis."

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