Website by AQEEL FAROOQI  



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Problems of identification of camera-trapped tigers
Indian Wildlife - challenges in the new millennium
The greying of India
On the road to extinction
A Tribute to Rumbha - the elephant  
State development project threatens state bird - Sarus
Shahtoosh ban gains momentum worldwide
The road to disaster
Killing nilgais in the name of crop protection
Warring NGO's may spell doom for the tiger
Where have all the sparrows gone?
Cuckoos that fly out of crows' nests
Corbett park woes continue to mount
A question on post mortem examinations in the wild
Is it time to 'cry wolf' again?
Lifting of US sanctions may boost wildlife conservation
Migratory waterfowl may be hit by war in Afghanistan
UP wetlands to provide improved habitat to waterfowl
Anthrax as a potent wildlife killer
Man-elephant conflict takes heavy toll
Demoiselle cranes fly to safety in India
How long lasting are conservation victories
Fake tiger skins : a knotty disguise
Who cares for the wild here anyway?
A tribute to Charger - the long living tiger
Draining of wetlands threatening wildlife
Wildlife management needs rapid response units
Dudhwa loses another tiger
Indian Wildlife Board meets after five years

Hindustan Times, Lucknow | October 24, 2001


Anthrax as a potent wildlife killer

In the backdrop of the current frenzy being generated by anthrax amongst fear-crazed humans in some parts of the world, it may be a good opportunity to spare a thought for the threats that are posed by anthrax on many vulnerable wildlife species.

Anthrax is basically an animal disease that has a long-recorded history, which means that it has been occurring in domestic cattle for hundreds of years. During all this time, it has not been credited with causing any serious disease of epidemic proportions in humans, although stray cases of infections have always been reported from amongst people working closely with cattle or sheep.

It is caused by the bacterium Bacillus anthracis that regenerates itself through the formation of long-lasting spores. These spores have the inherent capability of dormancy, which enables them to survive for a long time in the environment. Grass-eating animals, including wild herbivores, are prone to infection because they are more likely to ingest anthrax spores living in the soil. Although the remedial practice of animal vaccination, or in case of an outbreak, the destruction of infected herds, has been instrumental in checking the disease, anthrax spores still continue to be found in soil samples from all over the world.

In far as wild species are concerned, all mammals are susceptible to infection, but as stated earlier, it is the herbivores and grazers that are more vulnerable. Once the anthrax infection is established in herbivores, it ultimately causes death, with the carcasses exuding dark tarry blood from body orifices. Unless quickly found and disposed off by burning, these carcasses are fed upon by wild scavengers like the hyaenas and jackals, and thereby the spores are spread across to other places, including waterholes. The spread of contamination is further augmented by flies and other insects that feed on the carcasses, and transfer the spores to surrounding vegetation.

As has been documented in a recently televised film on African wildlife, an outbreak of anthrax in Kruger national park if memory serves one right - also caused lions to become infected after they had fed on anthrax carcasses. It was heartrending to see large prides of infected lions, with grotesque and swollen faces, slowly but surely dying even after all the ministrations of the committed park staff. However, the subsequent operation they launched in disposing off the carcasses by burning, and disinfecting large areas around where the outbreak had occurred, gave a graphic insight into the huge human and logistic effort that wildlife managers in that country are capable of mounting.

In India however, our forests and wildlife have either not been afflicted with any anthrax epidemic of notable proportions, or have not identified it as the cause in cases where wildlife has been reported to die in substantial numbers. The most recent scare of a possible anthrax outbreak in an Indian forest that comes to mind, is the report in the Assam Tribune of August 15, 2001, which mentioned the death of seven wild elephants in the Nameri national park. According to the report, the Sonitpur district veterinary department suspected that the unnatural deaths of the wild tuskers could be due to anthrax, which had reportedly spread in an epidemic form in the nearby forests of Arunchal Pradesh.

Unfortunately, a lack of a follow up on that report has not provided any confirmation whether it was indeed anthrax or not. But what one does hope is that such an outbreak does not touch our forests and wildlife because it would be very presumptuous and optimistic to hope for such remedial operations in India, as were mounted in that national park in Africa.