At least nine zebras have died in 22 days in Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Safari Park in Gazipur.
Md Jahidul Kabir, project director of the safari park, said the animals died between Jan 2 and Jan 24, but could not confirm the cause of the deaths.
A panel of experts met on Tuesday after they received the autopsy reports of the zebras and the details will be provided later in the evening, reports bdnews24.com.
The panel included three experts from the veterinary faculty, former Dhaka zoo curator Md Shahidullah and Gazipur livestock officials.
Samples from the dead zebras were sent to the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research and Bangladesh Agricultural University.
The park authorities, however, kept the issue under wraps though they saw the first death on Jan 2. It was reported on Monday.
“The zebras were part of the African Core Safari range and as of now, nine of them have died,” Assistant Forest Conservator Tabibur Rahman told the media.
“The deaths of so many animals in a short period of time are unprecedented in the safari park,” said Tabibur, adding that the park was home to 31 zebras.
The zebras could have died of food poisoning, viral disease, bacterial infection or any other reason, said Jahidul, the project director.
“Zebras move in herds. There was no symptom manifested in this group. As they are wild animals, we couldn’t go near them.”
The affected animals were seen isolating themselves from the herd and fell on the ground: they apparently suffered from respiratory distress and swollen stomachs before they died, according to Jahidul.
Samples were sent to the lab for PCR tests to find out if the zebras died from coronavirus infections, but all tests yielded negative results, Jahidul said. The authorities checked the foods to rule out food poisoning.
“The other animals in the park are consuming the same foods as the zebras. They could be affected too, had it been a case of food poisoning. We didn’t get any proof of food poisoning,” he said.
At least 90 per cent of the dead zebras were female and most of them were born in the park.
The safari park has a strong security system, the project director said, adding there was no chance for outsiders to enter and poison the animals. “The authorities are focusing on all possibilities,” he said.