Canine distemper virus continues to rise among India’s tigers

  • January 13, 2014

In the last year, the canine distemper virus has killed at least four tigers and several other animals across northern and eastern India, according to Rajesh Gopal of the government’s National Tiger Conservation Authority.

The revelation is bad news for wild tigers—already endangered by rampant poaching and shrinking habitat as India undergoes breakneck development to accommodate the staggering growth of its 1.2 billion people. That same economic development and population growth means more people—and more dogs—are coming even closer to wildlife.

India will now test every tiger carcass it finds for the virus, Gopal said, while authorities also consider a massive campaign to vaccinate dogs against canine distemper.

“We cannot vaccinate every dog, of course. But even 50 percent of dogs in the zones around sanctuaries would help,” Gopal said. He did not give details of the plans being considered. There is no vaccine for big cats.

The cases being found across such a huge swath of India, however, suggests the disease could already be running in the wild, experts said, though they agree much more research is needed.

“These are very disturbing finds,” said Dr. A.K. Sharma, head scientist at the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, which performed the canine distemper lab tests. “The cases were quite distant from each other, and the latest was an area where there are no dogs. So it appears the virus is spreading.”

Last month a wild tiger in the Dudhwa Tiger reserve in Uttar Pradesh succumbed to the disease. Forest guards said they saw the animal in a confused state before it died.

The TigerTime team are deeply saddened by this news but we will continue to tackle the most serious threat to the wild tiger – poaching – and urge you to support our campaign to get tigers to the top of the agenda at the Global Summit on Illegal Wildlife Crime being hosted in London this February.