Agartala: The mysterious deaths of two leopards and some birds sent the Sepahijala zoo authorities into a tizzy. In the last four days, two leopards and as many as 11 birds of various species including night herons, pond herons, eagles, owls, kites, small cranes and white and black-necked storks have died in the zoo.

Besides the two leopards, another wild cat was found dead in the zoo area. A vulture was also found sick and immediately shifted to the intensive care unit. Vultures are now considered an extremely endangered species.

The wildlife conservator and director of Sepahijala Wildlife Sanctuary, Ajit Bhowmik, confirmed the deaths of the birds and the cats.

"Today, we found one black-necked stork dead," he said, adding that the cause of the deaths could not be ascertained as yet.

Nevertheless, the zoo administration has already quarantined the aviary and other animal enclosures, putting a complete restriction on visitors.

"We have sought help from outside experts. A team of the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI), which is currently engaged in implementing avian flu-related measures in Tripura, would visit the zoo. Central zoo authorities were also informed about the deaths," he said.

"Soon after the incident was reported, some specialist veterinary surgeons conducted autopsies on the dead birds and animals. But the exact cause of the deaths could not be ascertained," said Bhowmik. The carcass would also be sent to the central laboratory for further investigation. However, the zoo administration and wildlife experts confirmed that the deaths were not due to avian flu; the disease has only recently been reported in some parts of the state.

The zoo director said all birds and animals were administered antibiotics and other necessary preventive medicines. The wildlife authorities had also stopped giving poultry feeds' to the birds, as the deaths could well be food-related.