Four Covid-Hit Lions In Tamil Nadu Zoo Infected With Delta Variants, Govt Forms Task Force For Support

A nine-year-old lioness Neela and a male lion named Pathbanathan, aged 12 years, succumbed to COVID-19 earlier this month.

Genome sequencing of the samples of four coronavirus-infected lions at the Arignar Anna Zoological Park (AAZP) at Vandalur has revealed that they belong to Pangolin lineage B.1.617.2 and are Delta variants according to WHO nomenclature, the park informed on Friday.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on May 11 classified lineage B.1.617.2 as a variant of concern (VOC). The zoo’s deputy director said it also showed evidence of higher transmissibility and reduced neutralization.

The samples of 11 lions housed in the park were sent by the AAZP authorities to the ICAR-National Institute of High-Security Animal Diseases (NIHSAD), Bhopal to test for SARS CoV-2 four lions on May 24 and seven on May 29. The institute said in its statement on June 3 samples of 9 lions had tested positive for SARS CoV-2.

Immediately after this, the animals have been under active treatment. In a statement, the deputy director said that the Institute shared the results of genome sequencing of the SARS CoV-2 virus that infected the lions following a request from the zoo authorities.

A state-level task force has been constituted by the Tamil Nadu government to provide support and help to authorities on prevention. Mitigation of COVID-19 infection in wild and captive animals in the reserves, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, and reserve forests in the state.

“The director ICAR-NIHSAD informed that the Genome sequencing of four of the samples was done at NIHSAD, Bhopal. Analysis of the sequences shows that all the 4 sequences belong to Pangolin lineage B.1.617.2 and are Delta variants as per WHO nomenclature,” the release stated.

According to an official release, the Supriya Sahu, principal secretary to the environment, climate change, and forests department will be heading the six-member task force formed by the government. A close watch on the on-disease surveillance, mapping and monitoring system, vaccination, and other important associated departments, and the periodic reports will be published accordingly.

A nine-year-old lioness Neela and a male lion named Pathbanathan, aged 12 years, succumbed to COVID-19 earlier this month.

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