More zoo animals ill with foot-and-mouth disease

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Bangalore, September 25:  At least 20 animals at the Bannerghatta Biological Park are showing signs of the contagious and often fatal foot-and-mouth disease.

These include bison, nilgai and spotted deer, said executive director of the zoo, Range Gowda.

The contagious viral disease, which has killed scores of cattle in the State, has already claimed the lives of three spotted deer and a nilgai at the zoo’s herbivore safari. The safari has remained closed for two days to keep the disease from spreading.

The enormous task of vaccinating the 300-odd animals at the herbivore enclosure is proving difficult, Mr. Range Gowda said. “We have been darting drugs through tranquilising guns, but the herds startle and run away the moment we begin firing them.”

As a result only a few dozen animals have been vaccinated so far, senior veterinary scientist B.C. Chittiappa told The Hindu. Medication being administered includes antibiotics to prevent secondary infection and B complex to build up resistance.

Meanwhile, the zoo authorities have begun putting in place “bio-security measures” to destroy traces of the virus in the environment. “We’ve had to burn old fodder and we used flame guns to sanitise the area around waterholes,” said Dr. Chitiappa. The zoo has also begun spraying anti-viral medication across the premises, he added.

While the disease is very contagious, it can also be prevented from turning into an epidemic, he said. In 2006 and 2007, the zoo lost several animals to the disease.

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