Virus that killed Etawah lions came from dogs

Virus that killed Etawah lions came from dogs

Both Safari officials and Kanpur zoo fail to identify source of infection.

The lions, Lakshmi and Vishnu, died on October 30 and Vishnu died on November 16 respectively.


Two Asiatic lions that died at the Etawah Lion Safari’s breeding centre in November and October, weeks after their arrival from Kanpur zoo, were infected by canine distemper virus(CDV), according to the histopathology test reports prepared by the Indian Institute of Veterinary Research(IVRI).

The lions—Lakshmi and Vishnu— were brought to the upcoming Etawah Lion Safari’s breeding centre, an ambitious project of Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav, from Kanpur zoo in September. Before that, the pair was kept at Hyderabad zoo where they had come from Gujarat. Three-and-a-half-year old Lakshmi and five-and-a-half-year old Vishnu had fallen ill days after their arrival from Kanpur zoo. Lakshmi died on October 30 and Vishnu died on November 16.

The CDV is a virus that affects dogs and is often transferred to other animals. The Lion Safari authorities have, however, not been able to identify any possible source of infection.


Director, Lion Safari, K K Singh said the area where lions are kept is completely cordoned off and there is no possibility of dogs coming in contact with them. “I cannot say anything about the lions getting infected at Kanpur Zoo,” he said.

When contacted, Kanpur Zoo Director Mukesh Kumar also said there was no possibility of the lions getting infected while at the zoo. “We have a lot of animals in the zoo and none of them got any such infection,” he said.
Singh said the remaining three pairs of lions kept at the breeding centre are healthy and the area was sanitised after the illness affected Vishnu and Lakshmi.

“The CDV has been infecting the dogs for long and they can be vaccinated against this. But, the virus is also infecting lions and tigers now. There have been a few deaths because of this. The CDV weakens vital organs of infected animal. It cannot cured,” said an IVRI scientist, adding that the CDV was the main cause of two lions’ death.

While first test report of serum samples sent to IVRI in September found the samples negative for CDV, the reports that came in November showed its presence in both the lions. The laboratory report of Lakshmi found brain tissue positive for CDV. Vishnu’s lymph node sample was also found positive for CDV in a laboratory report.