COVID-19 did not remain limited to humans, as Nadia, a four-year-old female tiger in New York City became the first big cat to be diagnosed with Covid in April 2020. Five other animals like Nadia were patients of the worldwide infamous disease, the coronavirus after getting exposure to an asymptomatic zookeeper.
When lions in Nehru Zoological Park, Hyderabad got symptoms such as wheezing, dry cough, and nasal discharge along with loss of appetite, it was clear that they had become the first animals in India to get Covid.
Research has been ongoing since then, to come up with a drug for animals. 5 animals, three leopards, and two lions at Sakkarbaug zoo have been fully vaccinated against covid. The mission to create a vaccination against covid for the animals has been successful and all the big cats are doing well. The aforementioned cats were first given a dose of vaccine in May and the second one in June, exactly 28 days after the first shot was administered. The animals had been kept under monitoring, and as of 21st June, there have been no side effects.
The National Research Centre on Equines in Haryana under the Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) was asked to research and find a cure after two lives in Chennai zoo lost their lives to the COVID-19 virus in June 2021. Six zoos in the country had undertaken trials on lions and leopards to test the vaccine’s efficiency. Sakkarbaug in Junagadh was one of them, besides being a nodal facility for lion breeding. Other zoos undertaking trials are situated in Delhi, Bengaluru, Nagpur, Bhopal, and Jaipur. The Centre had permitted on the condition that only those zoos with more than 15 animals of one species are allowed to conduct the trials.
As of now, animals are being monitored regularly for antibodies and daily reports of the same are being sent to ICAR-NRCE. The antibodies have been ordered to be inspected regularly for two months after the second dose has been administered. Officials reveal that the antibodies are growing well and have not shown any adverse effects till now.
The officials ended by saying the vaccine has not been yet sanctioned for wild cats or those involved in breeding programs for conservation.