COVID-19: national parks monitoring animal deaths

Samples being sent to lab for analysis

Animal deaths in Bandipur, Nagarahole and other protected areas are being monitored and the viscera analysed in laboratory to rule out the possibility of COVID-19 outbreak in the animal world.

Reports of lions testing positive for COVID-19 apart from a few deaths reported in different parts of the world has led the government to issue guidelines in management of national parks and wildlife sanctuaries during the pandemic time.

Mahesh Kumar, Director, Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, said based on the advisory the Forest Department was also monitoring the death of animals inside national parks and sending samples for laboratory analysis.

The advisory states that disease surveillance, mapping and monitoring should be enhancement through coordinated efforts so as to prevent any outbreak at the earliest.

A similar circular was issued last year based on which a task force comprising local officers and veterinary staff was constituted and it is still operating, he added.

It is a general advisory to all chief wildlife wardens of all the States and Union Territories and has been issued by the Union Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

The advisory calls for minimising human-animal interface and the national park is already closed for visitors and safari was suspended when the State ordered weekend lockdown last month. Even the NTCA has sought the closure of parks for tourism and is already being complied with, according to Mr. Mahesh Kumar.

The advisory also stipulates that staff and field functionaries must be COVID-19 negative when they are deputed for duty while the movement of people into the park or through the park has to be restricted.

The park managers have also been advised to constitute a task force comprising veterinary doctors so as to manage any suspected cases in the forest limits. Creation of a round-the-clock reporting mechanism has been advised with a nodal officer for the swift management of any case.

Wildlife activists said restriction in movement of people was already there by way of suspension of safari. But steps must be taken to ensure that people living in the hamlets remain COVID-19 free as they were in close proximity with wildlife.

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