As the foot and mouth (F and M) disease grips the herbivores at the Bannerghatta Biological Park (BBP), the forest department has decided to either drive away the wild boars or cull them to prevent the further spread of the disease.
The BBP staff, which battled the Salmonella infection in 2010, are now preparing themselves for a similar exercise for F and M. The herbivore safari, which houses 175 animals (including nine nilgais, seven gaurs), will remain closed to visitors as well as animals other than those already there, for at least a couple of weeks.
The most affected among them will be the wild boars that dwell alongside herbivores. The boars are believed to be carriers of F and M bacteria.
“Wild boars are the major amplifiers of diseases. They can spread the disease hundred times more than any other means. We have asked the forest department to catch them if they can, to prevent the spread of the disease,” said Dr Ravindra Hegde, scientist in-charge, F and M regional centre, Institute of Animal Health and Veterinary Biologicals (IAHVB). Hegde has suggested that the safari be closed for at least five weeks. In response, Rangegowda, the executive director of BBP, said the department was contemplating translocating the boars or cull them. “We will capture and release them in forests. If we can’t do so, as a last option, we will request the wildlife warden for permission to cull them. The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) can permit their culling.”
Dr Hegde, however, said that as it was an aerosol transmitted disease, it can spread by any means within a radius of five km. “The disease was in surrounding villages two months ago. It is not clear how it spreads. Our employees, who come from nearby villages, can also be carriers. Even the fodder which comes from places such as Kengeri can be contagious as the disease is seen among cattle in Bidadi and Ramanagar.”
He also said that the department was monitoring 36 villages adjoining the park, for F and M disease, and the situation was “under control”. “We have started vaccinating animals in the safari. So far, we have found around 20 animals infected with F and M, including a few gaurs,” he said.
As a preventive measure, the department held a day-long meeting with IAHVB veterinarians who suggested measures to prevent the disease’s spread. A team of 10 doctors headed by B C Chittiappa, veterinarian from BBP, was doing rounds of 121 hectares of safari, looking for animals with a vaccination gun. The forest staff was found burning the feeding spots with flame guns. The place would be burnt and then anti-viral spray would be sprayed, according to a forest staff.
The mood at the safari was dull when Deccan Herald visited it. Though it was a holiday for the park, animals, without the stress of visitors vehicles, were found stretching themselves out. Some gaurs and sambars infected with F and M struggled to walk while the spotted deer were in their usual cheerful mood.
Disease grips State
Dr Hegde, who visited the park, said the situation was not serious in the zoo and there was no need to panic. He, however, said the disease had spread to the entire State. “It has become serious in southern Karnataka and hundreds of livestock have died of the disease,” he said.
Death of animals was reported in Bangalore Urban and Rural, Mandya, Mysore, Chikkaballapur, Kolar, Ramanagar and other districts. The IAHVB scientist, however, added that he did not have statistics on dead animals.