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Covid effect: Most zoos, national parks shut in northeast India

Covid effect: Most zoos, national parks shut in northeast India

Guwahati/Agartala, June 14: Most zoos across the eight northeastern states have either been shut or the authorities have taken a series of strict measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus among the captive animals.

The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, has given a series of safety guidelines to the state zoo authorities for the zoos in the light of the increasing number of cases of SARS-CoV-2. According to the experts, the SARS-CoV-2 virus causes the infectious coronavirus disease. Tripura's Principal Chief Conservator of Forests Dvijendra Kumar Sharma told IANS that the most famous zoo within the Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary and Clouded Leopard National Park in western Tripura's Sepahijala district was closed in view of the rising cases of nCoV during the ongoing second wave of the pandemic.

"We have taken all possible preventive measures in the zoo as suggested by the CZA," said Sharma, who has authored many books on biodiversity, forests and environment. Assam Environment and Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya after visiting the Assam State Zoo and Botanical Garden in Guwahati said that none of the animals in different zoos in the state has been affected by the coronavirus though 11 zookeepers have tested positive for Covid-19 so far. Suklabaidya reviewed the health of animals, preventive measures and the upkeep activities of the animal keepers.

"There is no immediate plan to open the zoos in Assam for the safety of the animals as well as zookeepers," the minister said. Restrictions on the entry of visitors in various zoos in Assam, Tripura and other northeastern states were lifted early this year but since April most of the zoos, national parks and botanical gardens were closed for the visitors in view of the outbreak of the second wave of the Covid-19. In view of the closure of the zoos, the authorities are losing huge revenue while the earnings of many people indirectly associated with the business have also been badly affected.

The zoo authorities have taken additional measures after reports of 28 captive elephants at the Theppakadu elephant camp in the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) in Nilgiri district of Tamil Nadu testing positive for Covid-19. The samples of the 28 captive elephants had been tested after nine lions reportedly tested positive for a certain virus and one lioness succumbed to the virus in the Arignar Anna Zoological Park or Vandalur zoo outside Chennai on June 3. The CZA has asked all the state zoo authorities that the food supplied to the animals must be washed and disinfected thoroughly and all meat must be sterilised by dipping in hot water (above 65 degree celsius) for 10 minutes.

"It is recommended that all large carnivores may be tested for Covid-19 as an animal health monitoring mechanism as far as possible," the latest CZA advisory said. The other advisories of the CZA include, to protect animals use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and double masks by the animal keepers are vital, RT-PCR testing of samples of all staff working in close proximity to the animals in animal enclosures or food preparation areas, two-meter social distancing by all zoo staff and avoiding close contact with all the animals.

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