Zoo’s TB nightmare could be nearing end

(Last Updated On: May 28, 2019)

The first mammal move in 22 months could signal the beginning of the end of Paignton Zoo’s two-year TB nightmare.

A female red panda named Ember is the small furry symbol of hope for the charity zoo, which has been under TB restrictions since August 2017.

Director of Living Collections Dr Amy Plowman: “Friendly discussions with the animal health authorities led to the development of a clear plan of action. If the remaining culture results come back negative, our TB restrictions could be lifted in June. We could then get our BALAI approval back.”

The BALAI Directive is the legislation that allows animals to move between European zoos with a reduced level of health testing because they have good levels of health surveillance.

“If the outstanding culture comes back positive, we would need to test animals again. This is not great news, but we have agreed changes to make the testing much quicker and less costly, and to improve welfare for the animals. The Animal and Plant Health Agency has implemented a risk-based approach and reviewed the testing regime that was agreed originally. This reflects the zoo’s biosecurity improvements and will mean that only those species not kept in wildlife proof enclosures will require testing.”

In the meantime, APHA has agreed to animals moving in or out of the zoo on a risk assessed case-by-case basis. Amy: “With the help of government vets at either end of the proposed moves. We hope to start moving youngsters on, pairing up single animals and thinking about conservation breeding work again. In addition, work to fence certain enclosures to make them badger-proof is well underway.”

A single case of TB was discovered at the Zoo in 2017. Zoo spokesperson Phil Knowling said: “We’ve lost too many animals to TB. Farmers lose whole herds, it’s true, but we’re talking about exotic animals that are often, like the Asiatic lions, part of important international conservation breeding programmes.” TB has claimed the lechwe herd, Asiatic lions Maliya and Indu and five West Caucasian tur.”

Paignton Zoo’s Executive Director Simon Tonge: “We can at least look to the future with a degree of certainty now. Paignton Zoo plays such an important role in many European Endangered species Programmes and the restrictions imposed due to TB have been far-reaching. Breeding recommendations for endangered animals such as red panda, golden lion tamarin and the Asiatic lion have all been impacted. The lifting of the restrictions will allow us to get back to playing our role in ex-situ conservation breeding programmes.”

The Balai Directive sets out conditions for the movement of various species of animals within the EU which are not covered by other legislation. Status is approved by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA). Paignton Zoo is a registered charity. For more information go to www.paigntonzoo.org.uk or ring 01803 697500.

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