Tests have revealed that two rare white tiger cubs died of COVID-19 in a Pakistani zoo, with animal rights activists pointing to negligence.
A Pakistani zoo is under scrutiny after two “extremely rare” 11-week-old white tiger cubs died last month from what appears to be COVID-19, officials have said.
The cubs died in the Lahore Zoo on January 30 just days after they started treatment for feline panleukopenia virus, a disease that targets the immune system of cats and is common in Pakistan.
After an autopsy and pathological tests, however, pathologists concluded the cubs died from COVID-19. The autopsy showed cubs were suffering from a severe infection and their lungs were badly damaged.
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The zoo’s deputy director Kiran Saleem told Reuters the cubs indeed had the coronavirus which has also killed more than 12,200 people in Pakistan.
Ms Saleem confessed some officials at the zoo tested positive for COVID-19 which is likely how the cubs contracted the virus.
“After their death, the zoo administration conducted tests of all officials, and six were tested positive, including one official who handled the cubs,” Ms Saleem said.
“It strengthens the findings of the autopsy. The cubs probably caught the virus from the person handling and feeding them.”
Pakistan’s zoos have been under scrutiny by animal rights activists who say animals have been subject to poor conditions and mistreatment which has led to hundreds of animal deaths.
Zufishan Anushay, founder of JFK (Justice for Kiki) Animal Rescue And Shelter, blamed “negligence” of the zoo’s management, according to Reuters.
“The last two white tiger cubs have died at Lahore zoo and once again the negligence of the management and authorities has come out,” Anushay said.
“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.”
Ms Saleem rejected allegations of neglect at the zoo, telling Reuters that animal rights activists were welcome to visit and check the facility.