H1N1 virus found in California cheetah

Safari West does not appear on the list of accredited facilities on the AZA website.

Swine Flu Found in California Cheetah

A California cheetah was the first in the world to come down with swine flu. Now scientists are studying how the big cat caught the virus and what this could mean for other zoo animals, pets and people.

By: Kelley Weiss

Wed Dec 9, 2009
(Sacramento, CA)

Nancy Lang says in the last twenty years she’s been running the Safari West Wildlife Preserve she’s seen animals get sick…but not with the flu.

“This is the first time, we were stunned.”

Lang is a biologist and owns Safari West near Napa. It houses 600 animals and is a combination of a zoo and resort. Lang says after she heard that a few domestic cats had swine flu she wanted to make sure her cheetahs were OK.

“I read about this in USA Today, I’ve been traveling a lot for business, and I came back and the cat was doing a little bit of coughing, its appetite wasn’t as good as it should be, so I requested that we get the swabs for swine flu and it came out positive.”

It’s not clear exactly how the cheetah came down with the H1N1 virus, but Lang says they think a sick employee infected the cat.

Marie Martinez is Safari West’s cat keeper – she’s at the “Cheetah Barn” where the four cheetahs stay.

“This is where we bring the cats in and this is where they’re housed in the evening, so they each have their own stalls, and you can see we’ve got the male to the back there and the little female.”

One of the females, Gijima, had the swine flu. Martinez helped nurse the eight-year-old cat back to health.

“It’s pretty much like a child at home, you know taking care of that kid, making sure they’re warm, are they drinking, are they eating? So that’s what you’re keeping an eye on and letting the vet know too, so that’s what we did with her.”

Martinez says Gijima has fully recovered – she was sick for about two weeks last month. She says no other animals at Safari West have shown flu-like symptoms. And visitors are not in danger of getting ill from the animals.

“When a cheetah anywhere has an influenza virus it’s a unique finding, this isn’t something we expected.”

Sharon Hietala is a professor and immunologist at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System at UC Davis. Hietala’s lab is part of a network of laboratories around the nation tracking H1N1 in animals.

“So as scientists we want to understand the transmission, how this happened and how we can protect other cats or other animals. So we’re at one right now, we don’t know anything and it’s a piece of the puzzle.”

And the American Veterinary Medical Association is also trying to understand how humans are passing swine flu to animals. Kimberly May is a vet with the association.

“We know that animals can give us diseases but we often forget that we can give them to them as well.”

May says a cheetah isn’t that far removed from a domestic cat. There have been seven confirmed cases of H1N1 in house cats around the country, none in California. May says it’s believed the animals caught the virus from their owners. But she says eventually animals could transmit the virus to humans.

“We know it’s crossed the species barrier one way, it’s not impossible to consider that it would go back. Luckily we don’t have any evidence that it has so far, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility.”

So May’s advice for zookeepers and pet owners at this point is to remember to protect animals from the virus too. May says it’s really just common sense if you’re sick: cover your cough or sneeze, wash your hands and avoid close contact with animals…as well as humans.



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Indian safari park wants to breed lone surviving lion

Lioness’ honeymoon has authorities on tenterhooks

Hardik Shah, TNN 7 December 2009, 11:20pm IST

VAPI: It’s a ‘tale’ of two honeymoons. One of a lioness that never happened for curious reasons and that of Dadra and Nagar Haveli (DNH) authorities, which is about to end.

The authorities had great hopes when they set up Vasna Lion Safari seven years ago on 60 acre of land at Vasona village in DNH. Now, they are caught on the horn’s of a dilemma. Neither have they enough lions to call it a safari, nor can they close the highly ambitious project. Two Asiatic lions — Kush, Dharma and two lionesses — Sonal and Silky — were brought to the safari from Gir with the hope that their numbers would increase through breeding. However, the lions were unable to procreate and died. Lioness Silky, too, died, leaving Sonal alone in the wilderness, which have dashed the authorities plan of having a thriving safari.

The authorities, however, are not willing to give up that easily. “We have decided to bring one more lion from Junagadh zoo,” assistant conservator of forests (wildlife), DNH, Dilipsinh Mangrola said.

“We have sent many requests to Central Zoo Authority (CZA) to grant permission to bring more Asiatic lions from Junagadh to DNH. But there has been no positive response,” said deputy conservator of forests, DNH B Chaudhry.

The authorities want to bring a lion to the safari at the earliest because of CZA guidelines, which say a lone animal is not allowed in a safari for public display.

Mangrola has suggested that in the mean time, Sonal be taken for mating with an Asiatic lion in Gir. If it happens, it will end the authorities honeymoon with the proposed safari, but will kick off a bright and long-awaited one for Sonal.



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Malaysian kept honey bear, leopard cat in condo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Authorities arrested a Malaysian woman after finding a baby honey bear, a leopard cat and a slow loris primate in her condominium, a wildlife official said Monday.

Officials acting on a tip discovered the endangered species at the 25-year-old woman’s apartment in a Kuala Lumpur city high-rise in a raid Friday, said Mohammad Khairi Ahmad, deputy director of the Selangor state Wildlife Department.

The animals, worth hundreds of dollars on the black market, were apparently kept as pets because the cage for the slow loris — a lemur-like animal — was equipped with swings.

Initial investigations showed the animals were bought from indigenous tribes in southern Negeri Sembilan state about three months ago, Khairi told The Associated Press. The department will get a court order to send the animals to a zoo or release them back to the wild, he said.

The woman, who has been released on bail, claimed her male cousin was the owner of the animals and authorities are now searching for him, Khairi said. Both could be charged for keeping endangered wildlife without permit. They could be jailed for up to two years and fined for each animal, he said.

Khairi said the honey baby bear could fetch about 5,000 ringgit ($1,471) on the black market, while the leopard cat and the slow loris were worth about 500 ringgit ($147) each.



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Tenn. animal shelter gets servals, other exotics

Knowsy Knoxville: Young-Williams Animal Center

By Merrie Long
Posted December 2, 2009 at midnight

Opened in 2001 and named for prominent Knoxville lawyers Lindsay Young and Mark Williams, Young-Williams Animal Center’s executive director, Tim Adams says that the center utilizes 40 employees, 100 volunteers, 25,000 pounds of food, 25,500 gallons of Trifectant, and thousands of chew toys for the roughly 18,000 animals per year.

Upon arrival, all information known about each animal is entered into the computer, they are scanned for a microchip, and checked for any other identification. Each is vaccinated according to its species, weighed and evaluated for temperament. Animals are held for a minimum of three days, and Adams says that unfortunately “only 8-9% are reunited with their owners. Every dog and cat who gets adopted here at the center is microchipped, but chipping is not always effective because often, owners do not keep their information updated with the microchip service.”

Adams says that many people are not aware that the center also offers a free spay/neuter program and a free pet food pantry for Knox County residents.

Adams explains that “probably 70 percent of the animals we receive are strays and the rest are owner-surrenders. Many do not realize that we turn no animal away,” says Adams. “We get mostly cats and dogs, but also rabbits, mice, rats, birds, and just about every kind of pet imaginable. We’ve even had iguanas, goats, horses, pigs, an alligator, an emu and a couple of servals.”

Get to know your town as photographer Merrie Long explores spots that are hidden, off-limits, exclusive or uncharted in this bi-weekly column.



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Escaped serval is recaptured in Texas

Missing African wildcat is recaptured

A missing exotic animal, an African wildcat, that escaped from its owner in the St. Paul-Lucas area last week was found Monday about a quarter-mile away from its home.

The missing serval was spotted in a wooded area and reported to authorities around 4:30 p.m. Monday, according to a Collin County news release. It was then captured without incident by animal control and taken to a local veterinarian for examination.

The 40-pound animal, which has a heart problem, is privately owned. Authorities have said it is not considered dangerous. Its owners passed an inspection in August to ensure that they were outfitted to house an exotic animal.



Learn more about big cats and Big Cat Rescue at http://bigcatrescue.org