At least five barasinghas (swamp deer) have died in the past fortnight at Jaldapara National Park, with the last death, an adult female, being reported on Friday. The deaths occurred in a special enclosure where the the endangered antelopes have been housed under captive breeding programme.
According to the wildlife department, the first swamp deer died on May 29 due to “foot-and-mouth-disease”. An official said that since then “four more swamp deer have died of the disease”.
Sumita Ghatak, the conservator of forest, wildlife, (north), added, “It is a water and air-borne disease. We are spraying disinfectant around the enclosure to prevent the disease from spreading in the wild. The enclosure now has 11 swamp deer.”
- Mumbai: Byculla Zoo set to get seven new enclosures
- Delhi zoo limps back to normalcy, records exotic deer births
- Assam floods: 218 animals including 17 rhinos, 166 hog deer dead in Kaziranga
- 19 eastern swamp deer shifted from Kaziranga to Manas
- Blackbuck casualties: Kanha swamp deer relocation put on hold
- 14 deer die at Kanpur zoo in one night
Foresters said they were giving medicines to the swamp deer to treat the infections. Officials explained that medication was being mixed with food and also in the water being given to the antelopes.
The foot-and-mouth disease’s virus can be transmitted in a number of ways, including close contact among animals, long distance aerosol spread, or through inanimate objects such as fodder and the clothes or skin of handlers.
What is worrying the foresters at Jaldapara is the severity and spread with which the disease had earlier killed the captive population of the swamp deer. The captive breeding programme was introduced in 1998 in Jaldapara to counter the dwindling numbers of the barasingha and two adult males and four female were brought in along with a fawn from Lucknow zoo. But by 2006, almost all had died barring four females and a male born in the captivity. Last seen in the wild in 1954 near Jaldapara, the swamp deer numbers have dwindled rapidly due to loss of habitat and poaching.