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In a first such incident, Eight Asiatic Lions test positive for COVID-19 in Hyderabad zoo

"The saliva samples of the Asiatic lions were thoroughly tested and they turned out to be positive. As they were living closely it must have been spread among them."

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In perhaps the first such reported incident, eight Asiatic lions in the zoo have tested positive for COVID-19 after their saliva samples were thoroughly examined by CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Rakesh Mishra, advisor of the premier research institute said on Tuesday.

“The saliva samples of the Asiatic lions were thoroughly tested and they turned out to be positive. As they were living closely it must have been spread among them,” Mishra told PTI.

“Now we are developing a method to test the samples of their faeces. This method would be useful in future as every time it is not possible to collect saliva samples from wild animals,” he added.

He further said the virus which is present in the lions at the Nehru Zoological Park here is not any new variant.

“They have mild symptoms and they are eating well and they are fine,” he said.

Replying to a query, he said there is every possibility of animals contracting the virus as they are also mammals like human beings.

Mishra further said these animals must have got infected through zoo-keeping staff.

A senior official of the zoo said they keep sending the samples of the animals to CCMB from time to time for analysis.

As the lions started showing symptoms such as fever, the zoo officials collected the samples and sent them to CCMB.

The official further said the samples from the wild animals will be collected either by the ‘Squeeze cage’ method or by tranquilising them.

In the ‘squeeze cage’ method, the animal will be confined in a cage without any space so that it cannot move or resist while taking samples.

In view of the rapid spread of the coronavirus in the country, the Ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change recently issued an advisory to close all zoological parks, national parks, tiger reserves and wildlife sanctuaries for visitors till further orders to control the spread of the pandemic.

Accordingly, the zoo, Kakatiya Zoological Park, Warangal, Kawal and Amrabad Tiger Reserves, all National Parks and wildlife sanctuaries in Telangana were closed from May 2, an official release had earlier said.

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