|Dog virus threatens India's dwindling tiger population
theguardian.com, Monday 13 January 2014
is scrambling to protect its beleaguered tiger population after several
big cats tested positive for a virus common among dogs but deadly to
past year canine distemper virus has killed at least four tigers and
several other animals across northern and eastern India, according to
Rajesh Gopal, of the government's National Tiger Conservation
Authority. He said tests for the virus would be carried out on every
tiger carcass, and officials were considering a campaign to vaccinate
dogs against canine distemper.
cannot vaccinate every dog, of course. But even 50% of dogs in the
zones around sanctuaries would help," Gopal said. He did not give
details of the plans being considered. There is no vaccine for big
Dr AK Sharma, head
scientist at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, which performed
the canine distemper lab tests, said: "These are very disturbing finds.
The cases were quite distant from each other, and the latest was an
area where there are no dogs. So it appears the virus is spreading."
Since two cubs tested positive in a zoo in Patna, the Bihar state
capital, Sharma and his colleagues have found at least four more cases:
a red panda in the north-east state of Manipur, a wild tiger in West
Bengal, a zoo lion in Darjeeling and, last month, a wild tiger in the
Dudhwa tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh.
"In the last case, forest guards said they saw the animal in a confused state before it died," he said.
said there were probably more undetected cases, since testing for
canine distemper has not been routine and few animals that die in the
wild are ever found.
distemper virus, a close relative of measles, is associated mostly with
domestic dogs, though it has infected and ravaged other carnivore