With a tiger in the Bronx Zoo, in New York, having tested positive for COVID-19, the West Bengal forest minister, Rajib Banerjee today said strict directives had been given to all zoo authorities in the state concerning the handling of animals.

Alipore Zoological Garden in Kolkata has taken several measures that include administering antivirus medicines to animals showing signs of sickness. A four-year-old female Malayan tiger, named Nadia, in the Bronx Zoo in New York has reportedly tested positive for COVID-19, today.

It is suspected that the animal might have contracted the virus from a zookeeper. This has paved the way for further worries since this reportedly is the first such case that has come to the fore.

The West Bengal forest minister, Mr Rajib Banerjee, when asked whether any particular directive has been given to all zoo authorities in the state in the wake of this news, told The Statesman,” We are taking all precautions, and strict instructions have been given out. The food given to animals, especially tigers, is well boiled to kill any traces of bacteria. I do not know how it happened in the Bronx Zoo, but in here, we are carrying out thorough sanitation drives inside the zoo premises and the animal enclosures. I recently visited Alipore Zoo, where we carried out disinfecting and sanitisation.”

He added, “Whichever zoo keeper serves the animals their food needs to wear gloves and disinfect onesself. Also, most zookeepers anyway maintain a distance while feeding animals like tigers.”

When asked whether, in the Sunderbans area, where humans co-exist with tigers, any health survey of the tigers have been carried out recently, the minister said “It doesn’t happen like that. In Sunderbans area, we have trap cameras installed. When it is observed that any tiger is injured or is behaving abnormally, they shot with tranquilisers and then administered medicines. In recent times, there has been no report as of yet.”

Meanwhile, the director of the Alipore Zoological Garden, Ashish Kumar Samanta, told The Statesman, “There are around nine tigers in the zoo at present. We have received new guidelines today but have been maintaining most of those protocols since February. The animals are shifted to other rooms when their enclosures are cleaned. Distanced is maintained while feeding or bathing them. Doctors are checking on the animals every morning and evening. When they are showing signs of sickness, they are also being administered anti-viral medicines like Virkon-S, which is working successfully.”

The zoo director highlighted, “We have given masks, gloves and other protective equipment to all zookeepers. They have been asked to report if they are feeling sick immediately. Staff quarters are being sanitised while whoever is entering the enclosures have been asked to dip their feet in potassium permanganate to ensure they don’t carry bacteria inside the tiger enclosures. The areas from where visitors look at the animals have been disinfected with sodium hypochlorite.”