Maharashtra zoos, parks get guidelines after US tiger tests positive
Zoos, national parks and sanctuaries in Maharashtra have been told to implement coronavirus-related guidelines by the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change amid reports of a tiger in a US facility testing positive for the virus, a senior forest official said on Tuesday.
The guidelines have been issued by the ministry's wildlife division, the Central Zoo Authority and the Indian veterinary research institute, he said.
Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (wildlife) Sunil Limaye said, 'National parks, sanctuaries number about 50 in the state, and are closed from March 18 to April 30. Though there are no tourists, we have asked staff, who number about 25,000, to ensure there is no spread of the virus from humans to animals. There are about 300 tigers in the state.'
'Staff have been told to maintain personal hygiene and social distancing. The entire area is sanitised with sodium hypochlorite and protocol has to be followed by staff while feeding the animals. They should stay away when the animal is eating and report to the veterinary officer if they find anything unusual,' he said.
Limaye said the wildife division of the Union ministry has asked all sanctuaries and national parks to form task forces comprising field managers, veterinarians, frontline staff to manage the situation, as well as a round the clock reporting mechanism under a nodal officer.
'Sanctuaries have been asked to set up essential services for emergency treatment of animalsand their safe release into their natural habitat as and when required. They have also been asked to enhance disease surveillance, mapping and monitoring system,' he said.
The official said the state zoo authority has asked that all 13 wildlife parks and zoos be sanitised and the staff be subjected to health screening.
'The CZA has asked that all staff be tested for COVID 19, and personal protection equipment kits must be given to animal keepers,' he added.