India's top tiger conservation body has swung into action and has asked all tiger-range states to keep an eye on the big cats and immediately report to authorities if any of them is found having COVID-19 symptoms after a tiger at a US zoo tested positive for coronavirus.
The National Tiger Conservation Authority alerted chief wildlife wardens of all tiger range states shortly after the Union Environment Ministry advised states to curb human visits and movements in national parks and wildlife sanctuaries as precautionary measures against the transmission of infection from humans to animals.
It asked them to gear up frontline staff as well as veterinary officials to prevent the spread of the disease among tigers owing to the zoonotic nature of COVID-19.
Asked about the issue, a senior official of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) said, "There is low probability of transmission of COVID-19 from animal to human."
Vaibhav C Mathur, NTCA's Assistant Inspector General of Forests said, "I am directed to inform that owing to the communicable and zoonotic nature of the said disease, following actions need to be taken to avert the disease in wild tigers in India.
"Tigers may be observed for symptoms consistent with COVID-19 such as respiratory signs of nasal discharge, coughing and laboured breathing through direct observation to the extent possible, besides through camera trap images for visible symptoms," said .
He also said it should be ensured that "personnel handling tigers in human-tiger negative interactions and translocation operations be ascertained to be coronavirus negative."
They should also take due precaution as advised by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare from time to time, he added.
"For COVID 19 diagnosis as well as differential diagnoses and characterization as highlighted above, samples may be sent to ICAR-approved laboratories as per the enclosure," he added.