ISLAMABAD: After the first case of an animal testing positive for Covid-19 in the United States, measures are being taken to further minimise human interaction with animals at the Islamabad zoo.

“Zoo animals can catch the coronavirus due to human error. That is how a tiger at the Bronx Zoo got it from an asymptomatic zookeeper. We had minimised interaction with animals immediately after government directions to close the facility; the prime focus is on extra care being taken while feeding the animals,” a senior Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) official told Dawn.

The official explained that the number of caretakers has also been reduced, to minimise the risks of an infected zookeeper transmitting the virus to an animal. He said that despite having more facilities and resources, an animal in one of New York’s most famous zoos has tested positive, so the precautions being taken in Islamabad are strict.

He said that scientifically, species of monkeys are the biggest carriers in the animal kingdom. The risks of a disease or virus spreading is higher in the wild, where animals come into close proximity, compared to the environment in a zoo where animals live in confined areas.

He said that some animals are being fed by locking them in smaller enclosures inside their cages.

“Animals are at as much risk of catching the coronavirus as humans. This is why the zoo has two veterinarians, who check the animals regularly and look into all aspects, especially respiratory illness. The opinion of both the vets are taken into consideration separately to ensure the safety of the animals. At the moment, all the animals seem to be doing well and are active under veterinary care at the Islamabad zoo,” the official said.

He said there have not been cases in the past where a disease or virus was transmitted from humans or animals or vice versa at the Islamabad zoo.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2020