Parasitic disease kills tiger, leopard at India zoo
11 Jul 2006 10:12:18 GMT
RANCHI, India, July 11 (Reuters) – A royal Bengal tiger and a leopard have died at a zoo in eastern India after being infected by a malaria-like disease, sparking fears that other endangered big cats could be at risk, officials said on Tuesday.
Authorities at Ranchi’s Birsa Zoological Park, in Jharkhand state, said both the cats had stopped eating days before. The tiger died on Monday and the leopard on Tuesday.
“The blood tests of the dead cats have tested positive for babesiosis,” said A.K. Singh, a state forests official.
Babesiosis is an infectious disease caused by a parasitic single-celled microorganism. The disease is transmitted by the bites of ticks that have picked up the parasite from infected animals such as rodents and horses.
In 2000, it claimed the lives of 10 royal Bengal tigers in a zoo in the neighbouring state of Orissa.
Zoo officials said blood samples from seven other tigers and two leopards had been collected.
Over the past year, Indian officals, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, have expressed alarm at reports of a dramatic fall in the wild tiger population because of rampant poaching and human encroachment on leading sanctuaries.
According to official estimates, there are now barely 3,600 tigers in India, and some wildlife experts say the true figure could be less than 2,000.