A nine-year-old lioness, named Neela, at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park in Chennai's Vandalur is suspected to have died of COVID-19 infection. Eight other lions have also tested COVID positive at the Zoo.
"The lioness housed at the safari area of the zoological park died on Thursday evening at 6.15 pm. The deceased lioness had been asymptomatic and showed some nasal discharge only the day before and had been symptomatically treated immediately," reads the statement issued by the Zoo.
The lioness is said to have been asymptotic and showed some nasal discharge only the day before her death. The Vandalur zoo has been closed since the lockdown began in the state.
The pride were immediately attended to by the veterinary team in the zoo. In addition to this, a team of experts was also deputed by Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University (TANUVAS) to help the veterinarians in the zoo to investigate the condition of the lions.
"On our request, a team of experts was also deputed by TANUVAS to join the veterinarians of the zoo in investigating and deciding the further course of the treatment regimen," said the zoo authorities.
The blood samples, nasal swab, rectal swab and faecal samples of 11 lions were sent to the National Institute of High-Security Diseases (NIHSAD) in Madhya Pradesh. Of the 11 samples, nine samples have come back positive.
"Blood samples were sent to TANUVAS and nasal swab, rectal swab and faecal samples of 11 lions were sent to NIHSAD, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh, which is one of the four designated institutes authorized to take up SARS CoV-2 testing in captive animals," said officials.
"As per the laboratory test results furnished by the Institute, samples in respect of nine lions 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 Center for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad," added the officials.
"All the lions which have tested positive are under close observation and on prescribed treatment regimen by the in-house veterinary team in close coordination with expert team from TANUVAS," further added the officials. It is still uncertain how the lions contracted the COVID-19 virus.