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Monday, September 20, 1999 Published at 10:29 GMT 11:29 UK

World: South Asia

Tiger disease claims another victim

A blood parasite is threatening tigers in Bangladesh

By David Chazan in Dhaka

Another tiger has died at the National Zoo in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka.

Sharmila was the fourth royal Bengal tiger to die at the Dhaka Zoo in the past four weeks.

The deaths are believed to have been caused by a blood parasite, Trypanosoma, and it is feared that another tiger is now dying.

Experts say the parasite originated in sub-Saharan Africa, where it was spread by tsetse flies.

It has been eradicated in Africa, only to reappear in South Asia, where experts are unsure how it is being transmitted.

This weekend all 15 tigers in the zoo were injected with an anti-parasitic drug, but it came too late to save Sharmila, a tigress who was only one year old.

A Pakistani veterinarian who was called in to help save the animals said the zoo lacked equipment.

Bangladeshi animal conservationists say zoo staff are inadequately trained and can't take proper care of the animals because they have to refer to the government livestock department before spending even small amounts of money on medicines or emergency care.

Last month, intelligence officials were asked to investigate the zoo, where more than 250 animals are reported to have died in the past six months.

There was a public outcry after a lion was said to have been poisoned.

Twelve zoo staff were suspended and the head keeper was replaced, but experts say conditions are still in desperate need of improvement.

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