A deadly virus is stalking the big cats, but the State Forest department is yet to wake up to the warning.
Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) has reportedly affected tigers in the northern and eastern parts of the country, killing two cubs in Patna Zoo, a couple of months ago.
Member secretary of National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA), Dr Rajesh Gopal, gauging the gravity of the situation, has written a ‘most urgent’ letter (dated January 13, 2014) to all the heads of the tiger conservation habitats. The letter states that in view of the threat to the wild tiger population from CDV, it is strongly advised that a special drive be launched in collaboration with the veterinary department of the state for sensitising field officers of tiger reserves and veterinary officers of the districts concerned.
“...It is important to create a prophylactic immunisation of dogs/cats in the buffer areas of the reserves. During post-mortem, blood/tissue samples should be collected from carnivores for subsequent examination and such samples are required to be sent to the Wildlife Institute of India and Indian Veterinary Research Institute for the needful. The Field Directors may be alerted with respect to detection, treatment and monitoring of sick animals of the tiger reserves and their vicinity,” Gopal has said.
According to experts, the CDV found in dogs is a kind of measles canines usually recover from.
Among pet dogs, distemper shots are given to the animal along with vaccination. However, if CVD is detected among other wild animals such as tigers, lions and leopards, it is an incurable infection where they may suffer from fever, seizures and delirium and can eventually die. CDV cannot be cured among wild animals, they added.
Despite the grave situation, the tiger reserves in the State are yet gear up to tackle the menace.
Karnataka houses approximately 20 per cent of the total tiger population in the country in Bandipur, Nagarahole, Bhadra, Kudremukh and Anshi-Dandeli reserves. Recently, tigers have also been spotted at the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. Tigers and lions are also kept in captivity in Bannerghatta and Mysore Zoo, which also need monitoring.
CDV calls for a concern in Karnataka due to the recent incident of stray dogs being released into the forests by Mandya City Municipal Council. It was reported that due to the dog menace, the Council had passed a resolution to relocate stray dogs and many were released into the Cauvery Wildlife Sanctuary. It is also reported that many of them were culled and some buried alive in the forest range.