According to official sources, Gujarat Biotechnology Research Centre has developed and completed the first trials for the Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) vaccine on guinea pigs and rats. To prevent catastrophes like the one in 2018, where around 27 Asiatic lions died from the illness, the vaccine is being prepared for the lion population in Gir National Park.
Almost 674 lions in the National Park dwell as per the 2019 census.
According to the Gujarat’s Chief Wildlife Warden Shyamal Binoy Tikadar told Down to Earth (DTE), there would be three trials of vaccine before applied on lions. The research will go on further guinea pigs then on domestic cats, then on leopards, before tested on lions.
According to the wildlife researchers, giving vaccines to wild lions is not good step as the lions will not remain as wild and as strong as earlier.
Several of the 33 lions that were vaccinated against CDV in Gir in 2018 have been kept in captivity, said Ravi Chellam, CEO of Metastring Foundation and a member of Biodiversity Collaborative (an Indian network of institutions that promote biodiversity science).
After the vaccination lions will not remain wild anymore. It would not be great idea to leave them in the wild again as they would not be able to stay alive there now, he said. Possibility is that they get into territorial fights as already other younger lions ruling over there.
In addition to livestock carrying diseases, it is very likely that some of the lions are also infected. There is a possibility that feral dogs may also feed on healthy livestock when lions hunt it, which can pose a threat to human health. Canine distemper is sourced by the paramyxovirus virus. It reaches through body fluids like infected urine, blood and saliva. The virus hits the respiratory, gastrointestinal and nervous systems of puppies and dogs and can be send out to lions, tigers, leopards and other wild cats also seals, as per the American veterinary medical association.
The virus is also originated in wild foxes, wolves, coyotes, raccoons, skunks, mink and ferrets. As symptoms form the dullness, lacrimation, cough diarrhea and seizures.
“Many experts are giving opinion that it would be better to vaccinate dogs instead of lions so that the disease does not spread from the dogs.
The Gujarat Forest department officials is stating that the vaccine will not get imported from the US, infact once it will be available in India then vaccinating the wild animals planning will be processed.
They are planning not to give vaccination to lions randomly.
Officials said it was not necessary that lions who will receive the new vaccine remain in captivity forever, like the other lions.
In early 1994, a CBD outbreak resulted in the deaths of 3,000 lions in Tanzania's Serengeti National Park.