Chennai: The swabs of 28 elephants from Theppakadu camp in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve were collected on Tuesday and sent for Covid-19 testing , days after a lioness died and eight others in the pride tested positive for the infection at a zoo outside Chennai.
The samples of 26 adult elephants, five of whom were in the musth stage, and two calves were collected from their trunk and rectum and sent to Indian Veterinary Research Institute at Izatnagar in Uttar Pradesh for testing.
“Five of them were in the musth stage so it was difficult but we managed to collect two swab samples from each of the elephants,” Dr K Rajesh Kumar, forest veterinarian, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, said.
“The elephants cooperated and only with some of them, we had to spend some extra time. This is a screening process and none of them are suspected to have the virus,” Kumar said, adding that the jumbos did not have to be sedated for the process. “That would have caused a huge strain on the animal.”
The feeding time of the elephants has been staggered as they are being fed separately. The caretakers for the elephants are allowed to enter only after getting their temperature checked.
As many as 52 mahouts and 27 kavadis (assistants to mahouts) are present in the camp and are being vaccinated on a priority basis. “Twelve out of 52 mahouts have been vaccinated so far,” K K Kaushal, field director, Mudumalai Tiger Reserve, said.
Forest minister K Ramachnadran had instructed forest officials to collect samples from Theppakadu camp as well as Kozhikamuthy camp in Top Slip at Anamalai Tiger Reserve.
“The minister launched a special vaccination drive for tribals living in the surrounding areas,” Kaushal said.
On June 3, one lioness died while eight lions tested positive for the virus at Arignar Anna Zoological Park or Vandalur zoo outside Chennai.