The Ministry of Finance has directed customs authorities across India to allow the import of animals including cats, lions, leopards, and pumas only after they have been tested for Covid-19 in the exporting country.
The government's directive said that these instructions are to be followed as long as India is fighting Covid-19.
"In this regard, the concerned regional officers/quarantine officers, animal quarantine and certification services (AQCS) will issue advance NOC/Final AQCS clearance for import of aforesaid animals into India after receiving negative Covid-19 test report (no more than three days old before export)," the government order stated.
Among others, this order will impact expatriates posted for duty to India who are trying to bring their pets, especially cats, along.
If the customs authorities discover wildlife being imported without the necessary reports, the animal will be sent back to the country where it came from, as per officials. This is because such animals can pose a danger to the local wildlife.
According to data from the World Health Organisation, large cats like tigers, lions, leopards, and pumas as well as gorillas have a high susceptibility to the Covid-19 infection.
Only last month, nine lions tested positive for Covid-19 at Arignar Anna zoo in Chennai. Two of them died. Earlier in May, eight Asiatic lions at Hyderabad's Nehru Zoological Park tested positive for the virus.