Mizoram Forest Minister Lalrinmawia Ralte said Friday that experts would likely take between two and three weeks more to isolate samples and determine what caused the mysterious deaths of several Serows (Capricornis Thar or Himalayan Serow) across two districts last month.
Ralte said experts from the state’s veterinary department and Mizoram University are working to solve the mystery, and the belief as of now is that the Serows — antelope-like herbivores designated the state animal of Mizoram — were likely infected by a deadly virus.
In the absence of definite proof, forest officials had initially said the animals were likely victims of a skin disease called Sarcoptic Mange that weakened them over time. The dead Serows were found with painful-looking skin infections.
Ralte said there might be chances that the virus might be able to pass on to humans and warned that people should be careful of what meat they eat and be mindful that it might turn out to be smoked meat of such infected Serows that are being passed off as some other meat.
It remains difficult to say exactly how many Serows, classified as “near-threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) have died in seemingly similar circumstances, but forest officials have definitely identified four deaths while interviews with villagers and eyewitness accounts suggest the number might be much higher at almost 30.