The mysterious death of gorals (Naemorhedus goral) in the Mukto area of Tawang district in Arunachal Pradesh had alarm bells ringing for veterinarians and environments.
If the initial findings regarding the disease and subsequent deaths are confirmed, environmentalists fear this rare wildlife species that resembles both the goat and the antelope families may become extinct from this world.
The gorals are protected under Schedule – III of the Indian Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
They are categorized under Near Threatened species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species (2008).
The population is declining rapidly. Gorals are found in the Himalayan ranges across Bhutan, Northern India, Nepal and Pakistan. The species lives in the hilly and high ranges near the cliffs in rocky terrain.
The matter was first reported by the Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of Tawang, Dr A Qayum to Dr Sorang Tadap, the zoo veterinarian of Itanagar Zoo, that there were deaths of gorals in the Mukto area of Tawang district on April 20.
Initially it was suspected to be a case of toxicity or rabies. The goral carcasses had skin infections and nasal discharges.
It was also reported that the Tawang Forest Division staff had collected two carcasses of the dead gorals, one was a sub-adult female and the other was a half decayed adult male.
When a team of expert veterinarians led by Dr Jahan Ahmed from the Department of Anatomy and Histology in the College of Veterinary Science of Assam Agricultural University (AAU), Khanapara; Dr Sorang Tadap; Dr Thupten Tashi, and the DFO Dr A Qayum from Mukto arrived at the place, the team found that the only one goat in the entire village too had skin infections.
When observed, according to the team of veterinarians, externally the carcass was in good health condition with intact skin, though, there were necrosed, ruptured and intact pox-like circular lesions which were numerous in numbers around the upper and lower lip extending up to the commissure of the lips, there were sloughing of the skin in the upper eyelid of both the eyes.
Pox-like lesions were also seen in the anal region extending upto the vulva and under the tail.
The lesions varied from less than 1cm to 2cm in diameter and were greyish in colour.
Detailed examination of the internal organs revealed that the lungs had severe, extensive lesions uniformly distributed throughout the lung parenchyma.
It was highly congested. Focal area of proliferation with necrosis was also observed, which were reddish brown in colour with enlarged lung lobes.
Frothy discharges were also seen on the entire length of the trachea; there was straw coloured clear fluid in the thoracic cavity.
The lymph nodes were found enlarged.
Though no internal parasites were found, the lesions were suggestive of goat-pox virus infection.
The death of the gorals is suspected to be due to goat-pox, a marauding virus infection (virus family Poxviridae; genus Capripoxvirus) that can infect the entire endemic goral population .
It is the first suspected case of goat-pox infection in gorals from the North-east.
If this be the case, then the day is not far that this endangered species will become extinct from this planet.
However, a more concrete conclusion will be arrived at after the reports come in as the samples have been sent for laboratory analysis to confirm goat-pox infection.
Meanwhile, after the post-mortem examination, both the carcasses were burnt and buried deep beneath the ground.