Zoos need thorough clean-up during recovery MCO, says vet

A file picture of a disinfection exercise being carried out at Zoo Negara. – YAP CHEE HONG/The Star

KLANG: Zoos throughout the country should be given a thorough clean-up during the recovery movement control order (MCO), says veterinarian Datuk Dr S. Vellayan.

The former Zoo Negara assistant director and chief veterinarian, said the cleaning-up of zoos was long overdue.

"The cleaning is very much needed now because we are in the midst of a dangerous pandemic, ’’ said Dr Vellayan who retired from Zoo Negara in 2008, after serving for 28 years.

He added that the recovery MCO period was a suitable time to carry out cleaning as workers were back in full force and the place was still closed to visitors.

According to Dr Vellayan, the first thing that ought to be done is the cleaning-up of cages, enclosures, pools and pathways in the zoos.

"The entire vegetation behind the cages as well as in the enclosures must be sprayed with disinfectant or applications such as lime powder solution to keep away rodents that could carry diseases, ’’ said Dr Vellayan.

Apart from the cleaning-up, Dr Vellayan said a new set of standard operating procedures, in line with the recovery period post-Covid-19 pandemic, must also be drafted and implemented.

"The zookeepers and workers must use personal protective equipment (PPE) when handling animals, especially those that are in close contact with them such as primates, elephants and tapirs, ’’ he added.

Dr Vellayan said zoo workers must also be given yearly X-rays to ensure they were free from communicable diseases such as tuberculosis.

"It used to be the practice in some zoos, including Zoo Negara in the past.

"I worked in Zoo Negara for 28 years and had 28 X-rays of my lungs taken during my tenure, ’’ said Dr Vellayan, adding that the practice was discontinued about a decade ago.

Dr Vellayan said chest X-rays of zoo workers were necessary as there is an increase in animals, especially primates, contracting tuberculosis in recent years which could have probably been transmitted by the zoo workers.

He added that zoo workers must undergo Covid-19 tests in addition to chest X-rays.

"Lastly, zoos must also use this period to conduct full medical exams on all their animals to ensure they are free of diseases or infections, ’’ said Dr Vellayan.

There are about five full-fledged zoos in Malaysia currently.

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