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SOS Rhino : In the News : Archived News : April 2001 : Mysterious disease claims zoo rhino

Mysterious disease claims zoo rhino

The Times of India (Global News Wire)
April 25, 2001

NEW DELHI - A mysterious disease has claimed the life of a male one-horned rhinoceros and left a female of the species in a "very serious'' state. Dabboo, the 31-year-old male rhino, died on Monday night.

But what is really worrying the authorities is that it was Mohini, the 19-year-old female rhino, who fell ill on Monday. Dabboo, who was apparently all right then, was separated from her and kept in the enclosure so that Mohini's disease was not transmitted to him. But he died in his enclosure at night.

Moreover, there is a risk that the disease might get transmitted to other zooanimals. But officials are keeping their fingers crossed. Director-general, forests, S C Sharma said: "There is no physical contact between the animals and these rhinos. Physical barriers, moats and trees will all act to prevent any spread of the disease.''

Sharma, while pointing to the bloodstains on the walls of Dabboo's enclosure, said: "He must have been in excruciating pain. That is why he banged his head against the wall. But it is really worrying that two showed the same symptoms almost simultaneously, with a gap of just a few hours.''

On Tuesday evening, zoo director B S Bonal and Central Zoo Authority member secretary P R Sinha said all attempts were being made to save Mohini. She was being administered glucose and IV fluids.

Sharma said: "The only positive sign is that she is taking water. She might be suffering from blockage of intestines.''

Hectic efforts were being made to conduct an autopsy on Dabboo's body as it is always conducted before sunset. Moreover, former zoo director B M Arora said: "The autopsy can't be conducted on Wednesday as the body would have decomposed by then.''

Bonal said that if the disease was found not to be contagious, the rhino would be buried. If contagious, the carcass would be burnt in the incinerator.

But on Tuesday evening a ditch was being dug in the rhino enclosure to bury him. "We will have to use phenol and salt to decompose the body,'' a zoo official said, adding: "In an incinerator, only small pieces of the animal can go one at a time. Burning the rhino may take up to two days.''

The prized horn will be kept in safe custody. Sinha and Bonal said the horn might be given to the National Museum of Natural History.

''Mohini's children--eight-year-old Ayodhya and six-year-old Maheshwari--have been kept in a separate enclosure. They are being observed closely for any symptoms,'' Bonal said.

Mohini and Dabboo were brought from Assam in 1990. Now the zoo is left with one male and two female rhinos, if Mohini survives.

While the average age of rhinos is 40 years, the descriptive board at the rhino enclosure says this animal is "at man's mercy'' because of the false belief about its horn being an aphrodisiac.

* The male rhino did not show any sign of the disease on Monday afternoon and died an extremely painful death that night.

* Other rhinos or animals who are not as yet showing any symptoms might be affected.

* While the Central Zoo Authority insists on at least two doctors in a zoo, there is just one full-time veterinary doctor for the over 1,000 animals in the zoo for the past many months.

* The treatment of animal diseases remains predominantly symptomatic largely due to the lack of research on wildlife and human apathy.



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