Two 11-week-old white tiger cubs that died in a Pakistan zoo last month appear to have died of first COVID-19 animal infection.
The cubs died in the Lahore Zoo on January 30. They died four days after treatment for what officials thought was feline panleukopenia virus. It’s a disease that zoo officials claim is common in Pakistan and targets cats’ immune systems.
Meanwhile, an autopsy found the cubs’ lungs were badly damaged. The cubs were suffering from a severe infection, with pathologists concluding they died from the first COVID-19 animal infection in Pakistan.
Officials didn’t conduct any PCR test for the new coronavirus. Zoo deputy director Kiran Saleem told Reuters the zoo believes the cubs were the victims of the pandemic. The virus has killed 12,256 people in Pakistan.
“After their death, the zoo administration conducted tests of all officials. Six were, including one official who handled the cubs, tested positive,” Saleem said. “It strengthens the findings of the autopsy. The cubs probably caught the virus from the person handling and feeding them.”
Animal rights abuse in Pakistan!
Pakistan’s zoos regularly draw the ire of animal rights activists. They say hundreds of animals have died from poor living conditions there.
“The last two white tiger cubs have died at Lahore zoo. Once again the negligence of the management and authorities has come out,” said Zufishan Anushay, founder of JFK (Justice for Kiki) Animal Rescue And Shelter.
“White tigers are extremely rare and need a specific habitat and environment to live a healthy life. By caging them in unhygienic conditions with no medical arrangements, we will keep witnessing these incidents.”
COVID-19 is a new virus, and the world is making policies for humans, she said. “It should not forget animals in pet shops, zoos and everywhere else.”
However, Saleem rejected the allegations of neglect at the zoo. He said animal rights activists were welcome to visit and check the facility’s safety and hygiene protocols themselves.
In December two Himalayan brown bears were airlifted out of the Islamabad Zoo to a sanctuary in Jordan.
At the Peshawar Zoo, officials have said four giraffes died in 2020. Last year two lions at Islamabad Zoo suffocated when workers lit fires in their cages.
What do you think of this story? Let us know in the comments section below.