The CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow, has one of the most extensive animal facilities in its two campuses 15 km apart. The declaration of lockdown on 24th March 2020 was a significant challenge toward maintaining more than 15,000 animals, including mice, rats, hamsters, gerbils, mastomys, guinea pigs, rabbits and rhesus monkeys.
Different modalities to maintain the facility were initiated. The first step was to assess animal feedstock. There was some immediate relief that we had enough stock to last more than two months. But there was the looming uncertainty of an extended lockdown. We contacted our Mumbai-based feed supplier for our next lot of feed.
All the animals cannot be fed on the stocked feed. For rabbits, guinea pigs and monkeys, we required fresh grass, vegetables and fruits daily. Vegetables and fruits being essential items, were free from the ambit of lockdown, and so, we continued to receive them daily.
After ensuring that the feed supply was not affected, we assessed the ongoing experiments and classified them into three categories, i.e. Experiments that terminate within one week, experiments that end within one month and experiments that close after two to three months. Time-slots were prepared for individual investigators to take care of all the ongoing investigations.
Given that the lockdown situation, staff movement from their residence to the animal facility was stalled initially due to the strict vigil on the roads by the local administration. The CSIR-CDRI animal facility has around 15 permanent staffs and 40 sanitation workers. Some of the scientists and technical staff resided within the campus, which gave them direct access to the facility. Those living outside the campus faced apparent problems in their movement to the facility.
To facilitate their essential travel, we coordinated with the local administration. We obtained the requisite permissions for the movement of the personnel who were required to attend to unavoidable and vital work that included animal feeding, a supply of drinking water, cleaning of cages, disposal of dead animals, veterinary care etc.
With collective enthusiasm, owning responsibility in an unforeseen situation and cooperation from different quarters, we could regularize and restore the facility's smooth maintenance during the lockdown period. No experiment was affected, and most importantly, we could uphold the animals' welfare and even save the precious lives of many of them.
Dr Rajdeep Guha
Senior Scientist, National Laboratory Animal Centre,
CSIR-Central Drug Research Institute, Lucknow
(Photo Courtesy: Dr Shishir Kumar Gupta)
(Photo Courtesy: Dr Vijay Kumar Verma)