SC takes up ‘important’ issue of Covid-19 spread to zoo animals

New Delhi, July 16 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday, while hearing a matter in connection with death of a tiger at the Delhi Zoo allegedly due to Covid-19, said the matter is important and this case may lay down the rules for the future.

A plea was filed by animal rights activist Sangeeta Dogra expressing concerns in connection with spread of Covid-19 to animals in zoological parks and also that the Central Zoo Authority failed to notify the Centre of their non-inclusion in the list of “essential services”.

Earlier, the petitioner had cited an incident in New York's Bronx Zoo, where a four-year-old Malayan tiger named Nadia contracted the deadly coronavirus from a caretaker, who was asymptomatic at the time. Meanwhile, the death of Kalpana, a white tigress at the Delhi Zoo in April was attributed by the government to acute renal failure and other complications related to old age, and it said that the big cat tested negative for Covid-19.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde said: “This case may lay down the rules for the future. Your matter will be heard.” The bench posted the matter for further hearing after four weeks.

During the hearing, Dogra placed the rejoinder before the court, but Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, representing the Centre, objected to the language used in it. On this, the Chief Justice, referring to animal activists, said: “These persons are very passionate about wildlife.” Mehta responded, “The government is passionate as well. However, the death of the tiger was due to intestinal infection, and not Covid-19.”

The Chief Justice told the petitioner that the court is dealing with a limited issue, which is the cause of death of the tiger, and asked her not to argue on wider issues. “You say, the tiger died of Covid-19, their report suggests it did not,” he said.

Dogra replied that the area where the tiger was found was declared a containment zone. “If the tiger was not Covid-19 positive, then why declare it a containment zone? 24 people who were found around the tiger were put in quarantine,” she contended.

The bench noted that the government has assured a committee would examine the issue after the death of the tiger in the US. Dogra, in her plea, had argued that zoo animals are dependent on authorities for food, and allegedly several violations have been committed by the CZA.

The plea cited that the Delhi Zoo had invoked the Essential Services Maintenance Act to ensure supplies for their animals, however, no similar information is available for other zoos in the country.



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