BBP sloth bears to undergo elaborate medical test

It will help detect tuberculosis among them

BBP sloth bears to undergo elaborate medical test

All the rescued sloth bears housed at the Bear Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (BRRC), Bannerghatta Biological Park, will have to undergo new tests for suspected tuberculosis (TB).

The health committee of the Zoo Authority of Karnataka has decided to conduct a detailed standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test on infected as well as healthy bears.

Briefing on the health condition of the bears, Dr Arun A Sha, the wildlife veterinarian at BRRC, said all the ailing animals, which were refusing to take any food, were slowly recovering.

“We have discontinued the TB drugs that were administered to them. Although they are consuming enough food, it doesn’t mean that discontinuing medicine may have helped improve their appetite. These bears still have suspected human TB infection in them,” he said.

A few bears like 19-year-old Kalinga, who suffers from frequent convulsions, have other health issues.

Health committee members are keeping their fingers crossed hoping that the PCR tests should be able to identify various ailments in these animals.

Tests will be conducted by wildlife veterinary students at the Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals (IAH & VB), Hebbal. The institute has sought all kinds of samples including blood, sputum, urine and stool samples of the bears.

The veterinary students will collect the samples from the animals and will conduct the tests not only for TB but for other infections as well.

Explaining the PCR testing procedure, an official from IAH & VB said the testing kit was developed by Bigtec Labs and is learnt to be highly sensitive with enhanced technology to give out results in half an hour.

The official said the tests were very expensive since the PCR equipment itself costs nearly Rs 3.5 lakh. An agreement has been signed to test 50 bears for Rs 95,000. The cost of the diagnosis will be borne by Wildlife SOS, the NGO taking care of these bears.

BBP’s Executive Director R Raju said that after meeting the officials of National Tuberculosis Institute, there was a unanimous decision to conduct PCR tests on the bears.

“The PCR test will be an integrated health check-up for the bears which we are planning to start after August 15. In a day, only five animal samples will be collected and sent for the tests. After this, the animal keepers will also undergo TB tests,” he added.

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