How big a vaccine will we need to inject the rhinos? Could we keep the deer in isolation? Yes, it looks like the right time to plan! COVID-19 has already killed more than 3 million people worldwide and is spreading at lightning speed.

With what we have done to nature, this seems like fair play from the planet.

Researchers have found 26 different animals to be regularly in human contact, including dogs, sheep and cats, which are susceptible to the virus and could re-infect us as well. The first known case of animal infection of the virus was confirmed on a wild mink of Utah.

Corona outbreaks in the fur farms of Europe and the United States have killed a lot of animals.

Denmark gassed 17 million minks to death in response to corona outbreaks on its farms. Five tigers and three lions of the Bronx zoo, New York have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus. COVID-19 might have already started a chain of infections on more animals as well.

The mutation that the virus undergoes after infecting an animal might be more severe and could re-infect humans as well. The world's first animal vaccine for virus has already been developed in Russia. Now, we have the responsibility to save the animals on earth.

Nepal's conservation efforts have amazed the world by numbers. The number of our fauna is ever increasing. If somehow our wildlife were to be infected, we have no plans at all. So, prevention is the key.

The government should suspend all field work involving direct contact with wild animals.

Capturing methods incurring less time and contact distance must be employed.

The capturing team should use necessary PPE sets and disinfected gears while handling wildlife. If necessary, remote monitoring methods can be used instead of capturing or coming into contact.

The government should implement flexible sick leave policies for officials in conservation.

Our animals must be tested for COVID-19 while import of animal vaccines must be initiated, if necessary.

Our snow leopards may catch the virus from the mountain shepherds and their dogs. Our wild buffalo may breed with infected ones. Animals living in colonies and herds like rodents, and sheep are at greater risk of infection and transmission.

Deforestation, hunting, poaching and overall human interventions in the wild drastically rise during the lockdown, which is a serious concern. Human wildlife interaction must be minimised at all cost. Security must now be tighter than ever. Strict protocol for wildlife conservation is necessary during the pandemic. We are still learning about the virus, and we cannot put our fauna at risk.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 12, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.