The Anna Arignar Anna Zoological Park said that samples were sent after some lions showed loss of appetite and occasional coughing, and nine out of 11 returned positive.

9 lions test positive at Chennai zoo: Representative picture of a lioness with her cub inside an enclosure at the famous 'Arignar Anna Zoological Park' at Vandalur, ChennaiRepresentative image
news Coronavirus Friday, June 04, 2021 - 16:53

One lioness has died of suspected coronavirus infection, while eight other lions at Chennai’s Vandalur zoo have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. In a release, the Anna Arignar Anna Zoological Park said that on May 26, five lions started showing loss of appetite and occasional coughing. A team of experts was formed and samples of the big cats were sent for testing. The tests of nine lions returned positive. The zoo added that one of the nine, a lioness, 9-year-old Neela, died on June 3 at around 6.15 pm. The animal had been asymptomatic and showed some nasal discharge only the day before her death (June 2) and had been symptomatically treated immediately.

“As per the laboratory test results furnished by the Institute, samples in respect of nine lions out of the 11 sent, have tested positive for SARS CoV-2. In order to ascertain whether or not the reported findings are in the nature of false positives or the animal could have died of comorbidities, samples have also been sent on 4.6.2021 to the Indian Veterinary Research institute Bareilly and the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad,” the statement said. 

All the lions that have tested positive are under close observation, on prescribed treatment by the zoo’s veterinary team and are also being supervised by an expert team from Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS). “All animal keepers and helpers for these animal houses are vaccinated against COVID-19. A separate set of animal keepers is engaged for each group of lions. PPE kits are mandatory for the animal keepers, veterinary doctors and field staff visiting the area,” the zoo has said. 

This news comes a month after eight Asiatic lions tested positive for the coronavirus at Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad. Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) Director Rakesh Mishra had then told TNM that coronavirus found in the lions in Hyderabad were found to belong to the ‘A2a variant’ of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. According to reports, the A2a variant was one of the most common variants found in the genomes of the virus analysed during the first wave. He added that it’s possible the animals could have contracted the virus from zoo caretakers or other humans who were in contact with them. 

It must be remembered that the Union government has said that there is no factual evidence that animals can transmit the disease to humans. The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change issued a statement earlier, saying, "Based on experience with zoo animals elsewhere in the world that have tested SARS-COV-2 positive last year, there is no factual evidence that animals can transmit the disease to humans any further." 

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