By Himanshu Kaushik
AHMEDABAD: The National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has, once again, issued a warning to the authorities of national parks and sanctuaries about a possible attack of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV). In a letter sent to all sanctuaries, the NTCA has said that tissue or blood samples should be collected from carnivores and kept for subsequent examination.
In a letter dated January 13, the NTCA has stated that "in view of the threat to the wild population from Canine Distemper Virus, it is strongly advised that a special drive may please be launched in collaboration with the veterinary department of the state for sensitizing field officers and veterinary officers of concerned districts."
Officials said that the letter further stated that it is important to create a barrier through prophylactic immunization of dogs and cats in the buffer areas. It also makes it mandatory to keep blood and tissue samples taken from carnivores for examination later. The samples have to be sent to the Wildlife Institute of India or Indian Veterinary Research Institute.
However, officials in the state said that this was the fourth time that such an alert had been issued. In the past, too, two letters were issued in June 2013 and one in December 2013.
An official of the state government said that there had been no incidents of CDV attack in India. In May last year, Dr Richard Kock of Britain's Royal Veterinary College had claimed that lions in India are a small vulnerable population and that an outbreak of infection by such a virus could kill at least 40% of the Gir lions.
Dr Kock had based his conclusion on a report of scientists who had 'recently' found Pestes des Petits Ruminants Virus (PPRV) as causing the death of a lion in Gir. The study which was completed in 2012 was based on a sample taken from a lion carcass in 2006. PPRV is the same virus that killed 1,000 lions - one-third of the big cats' population in Serengeti - in 1994.
Officials here said that the Gujarat government had already tied up with the veterinary department and they are taking random samples of lions brought after rescue. The report on 50-odd lions which was released in November 2013 had found no lion in Gujarat carrying the CDR or PPVR virus. However, the Gujarat forest department is taking all precautions and keeping samples, said the officials.