The Central Zoo Authority on Monday sounded a red alert for all zoological parks in India and told them to collect testing samples of animals on a fortnightly basis, after a tiger at the Bronx Zoo of New York tested positive for the coronavirus, PTI reported.

In a letter to all states and Union Territories, Central Zoo Authority Member Secretary SP Yadav advised all zoos to remain “on highest alertness” and monitor animals round-the-clock using CCTVs for any abnormal behaviour or symptoms.

The Central Zoo Authority said mammals, especially cats, ferrets and primates, need to be carefully monitored and fortnightly samples of suspected cases should be sent to designated animal health institutes for Covid-19 testing. “Sick animals should be isolated and quarantined,” it added.

The samples can be sent to the National Institute of High Security Animal Disease in Bhopal, the National Research Centre on Equines in Haryana’s Hisar and the Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Bareilly, Uttar Pradesh, the letter said.

It further instructed that no keeper at any zoo should be permitted to be in close proximity to the animals without wearing safety gear – preferably personal protective equipment – and should maintain minimal contact with animals while feeding them. All zoos are to follow the bio-containment and safety measures to contain the spread of the virus as per the guidelines issued by the Indian Council of Medical Research, the letter said.

“Zoos are advised to coordinate with designated nodal agencies of the government for public health response and permit screening, testing and surveillance as and when required by the nodal agency,” the Central Zoo Authority added.

The four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo, named Nadia, tested positive for the virus on Sunday. Nadia, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions had developed a dry cough. Subsequently, they were tested for Covid-19, and Nadia was found positive. The zoo has been closed for visitors since March 16 due to the coronavirus epidemic in the United States.

It is believed that the virus originated from a seafood market in Wuhan in Hubei province of China. In late March, a pet cat was discovered infected with the novel coronavirus in Belgium. Earlier, two dogs in Hong Kong had tested positive for the disease. All these animals were infected by people they had come in contact with.

There have been over 3,37,000 cases of the novel coronavirus in the United States, according to an estimate by Johns Hopkins University. This is the highest number for any country in the world. New York state has been the worst hit, with over 1,20,000 cases. Over 12,70,000 people have been infected worldwide.

The number of Covid-19 positive cases worldwide crossed 12.73 lakh on Sunday, including 69,444 deaths, according to a tracker by Johns Hopkins University.

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