Sloth bears continue to suffer at Bannerghatta Biological Park

Sloth bears continue to suffer at Bannerghatta Biological Park

Animals possibly infected by human strain of tuberculosis

Sloth bears continue to suffer at Bannerghatta Biological Park

The sloth bears continue to suffer from suspected tuberculosis and show no signs of improvement despite treatment at the Bear Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre in Bannerghatta. 

Kalinga, a 19-year-old bear developed severe convulsions on Tuesday, alarming wildlife vets at the Rehabilitation Centre.  A rescued animal from Chattisgarh, Kalinga has been suffering from an erratic appetite for the last two months. Vets have taken a sample of Kalinga’s blood and sent it to the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology at Hyderabad for detailed analysis.

Rehabilitation Centre vet, Dr Arun A Sha said that although they are interested in the finding the diagnoses of the ailment, they are more interested in concentrating on the treatment.

“Diagnoses of the disease has become a big challenge for us as there is no standardised testing kit to establish that these bear have tuberculosis. However, after the post-mortem of the two deceased bears (Yamini and Vivek) who had similar symptoms, we vaguely established that these bears could be suffering from tuberculosis,” he added.

Dr Sha said that there is no medical proof that tuberculosis can spread from one animal to another. “But if the 10 bears developed tuberculosis from humans — that is something to be investigated,” he said and added that animal keepers including the staff at the Rehabilitation Centre have all undergone tests for tuberculosis. “So, far the tests have been negative,” he added. “But a team from the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology is investigating to find the source of the infection.”

Treatment methods

The bears are currently being treated with combination drug of Rafampicin-Isoniazide-Pyrazinamide-Ethambutol, which is available only in tablet form. This has caused problems for vets who are required to administer the medicine orally. Vets also pointed out the pills have side-effects such as causing liver damage.

The 10 Sloth Bears, which have been showing erratic food habits are: Kalinga, 19; Pooja, 11, rescued from Bellary; Aman–blind, 18, rescued from Bellary; Kundan, 18, from Purulia in West Bengal; David, 10, from Chitradurga; Amritha, 15, from Purulia; Angelo ,16, from Chitradurga; Vans, 6, from West Bengal; Deena, 18, from Koppal; Kanishka, 12, from Chattisgarh. 

Animal experts explained the chance of recovery from tuberculosis is weak. But if the animals do recover, they remain a dead-end host with no chance for spread of infection. Sloth bears normally live up to 25 years in captivity and 15-20 years in the wild.

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