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Blood parasite kills zoo tigress

July 15, 2007

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LAHORE, July 14: The deadly blood parasite trypanosomiasis hit the Lahore Zoo once again on Saturday, killing a tigress. Earlier on Friday, the parasite had killed a Bengal tiger which the zoo had borrowed from the Lahore Wildlife Park for breeding purposes.

Zoo officials told Dawn that both the tiger and the tigress were being kept in the same cage. The tigress’ condition worsened at 3:30am and she fell in the pond. Later, she died at around 5am. The staff informed Zoo Deputy Director Dr Akhtar Iqbal Bhutta about her illness, but he was sleeping, though he was on duty. He inquired about the tigress’ condition an hour later, but by then she had died.

Trypanosomiasis, which spreads through infected vectors like flies and mosquitoes, hit the zoo for the first time in 1992, killing four tigers. It hit the zoo again in 2006 and killed three tigers. Now the zoo is under its attack for the third time and two tigers have been killed so far.

Now the zoo is left with only four tigers. All of them have been tested positive for the virus and are being treated, an official said. He said the Veterinary Research Institute tested zoo animals for the parasite and in most cases its reports were correct, but sometimes its reports proved wrong.

Officials said the zoo had taken measures to keep mosquitoes and flies away from animals. They said Bhutta would be replaced soon, adding that new vets would be interviewed on Tuesday to keep a better check on animals’ health. They said the zoo had called doctors from the institute and the University of Veterinary Sciences, representatives from the Worldwide Fund for Nature and Dr Masood from Rawalpindi to deal with the situation.

Wildlife Director General Imtiaz Tajwar said fresh blood was being introduced at the zoo to overcome the problem. He said the zoo was buying a pair of tigers and lions each. He said bidders for tigers and lions had been asked to submit to the zoo supplier’s certificate, pedigree certificate and country origin of lions and tigers next week. He said two new doctors would be hired to deal with the situation.