BHUBANESWAR/CUTTACK: Anthrax scare has hit Similipal Sanctuary after an elephant, which had died a few days back, was found to be carrying the dreaded bacteria.
The viscera test conducted by Animal Diseases Research Institute (ADRI), Cuttack confirmed the presence of bacillus anthracis, the anthrax organism, in the jumbo prompting the Veterinary and Wildlife wings to go in for an elaborate vaccination drive in the foothills of Similipal.
The elephant had died in Subarnamanjuri forest under Dukuri Forest Range of Baripada Forest Division last week. Once the forest officials spotted the carcass and post-mortem was conducted, the decision to carry out an anthrax test was taken on the basis of physical appearance of the dead pachyderm.
“We carried out slide tests for two strains, one of which reported positive for anthrax. The report has been sent to Eastern Region Diseases Diagnostic Laboratory, Kolkata for further tests,” Director of ADRI Dr Loknath Behera told this paper.
The presence of anthrax organism in the elephant has put wildlife officials as well as veterinary wing of the State Government on their toes. Although animal-to-animal transmission is not possible, the anthrax bacteria can be contracted if an affected animal’s meat is consumed either by human beings or animals, both domestic and wild. Herbivores can also come in contact with the spores while grazing.
Field Director of Similipal Tiger Reserve HS Bisht said necessary preventive measures are being taken and all forest divisions have been alerted.
While the Directorate of Veterinary Services has launched awareness campaign, a vaccination drive has been started simultaneously in villages surrounding the wildlife sanctuary in collaboration with the Wildlife Wing in a bid to prevent outbreak. Behera said villages located in a radius of five km from Similipal are being covered under the vaccination drive.
The Forest Department, on its part, has been vigilant. DFO of Baripada Sanjay Kumar Swain said a five km radius in the foothills will be sanitised in the entire Mayurbhanj district. Till Tuesday, at least 1,600 livestock have been vaccinated. “Since wildlife are also vulnerable to the disease, we are not leaving anything to chance,” he added. Villagers in the periphery have been cautioned against venturing into the forest with their livestock.
Similipal, also a designated national park, is a biodiversity hotspot. It is home to Royal Bengal tigers, leopards, elephants, sambhars, chitals, a wide variety of plant resources and over 300 bird species.