- LONDON - A lion at a zoo
in the west of England was suffering from the feline version of "mad
cow disease" when it was put down earlier this year.
- Staff at Newquay Zoo in Cornwall disclosed Tuesday how
Major, a 12-year-old male, was put to sleep in August after failing to
recover from injuries sustained in a fight with another lion several years
- But results of a postmortem showed the animal was suffering
from feline spongiform encephalopathy (FSE), the cat equivalent of bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the formal name for mad cow disease.
- Officials at the British Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries
and Food in London were informed of the case after samples from the animal's
brain were sent for laboratory tests.
- But a ministry spokeswoman said the case was not felt
to be a concern. "These animals don't go into the food chain,"
she said. "You are more at risk of getting mauled by a lion in a safari
park than you are getting BSE from one."
- The zoo's managing director, Mike Thomas, said staff
had had no idea that the animal had the disease. "It was a very surprising
piece of news for us," he said. "I would expect it would have
had to come from Major eating part of a whole carcass, as it is the brain
and spinal chord which carry the disease."
- Although cases of FSE in big cats in Britain are not
unprecedented, Major is only the third lion confirmed to have had the disease.
- Official figures show a wide variety of exotic species
have succumbed to mad cow disease-type illnesses since the first recorded
death of a zoo animal from such a disease in June 1986. Most of the deaths
have occurred among the species, with tigers, ocelot, puma and cheetah
all falling victim. Isolated cases have also been reported among ruminants.
- Major arrived at Newquay after fights with an older dominant
male at Longleat Safari Park, south of Bristol in the west of England.
When conventional treatment failed to work, zoo staff called in a local
faith healer to try to cure the spinal problems Major had been left with
as a result of the fighting. But the lion's health continued to go downhill,
and in August he was put to sleep.
- Keith Harris, head warden at Longleat Safari Park, which
boasts 25 lions, said the park had not had any problems with FSE.
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