Following the first known case of a tiger contracting the new coronavirus which causes COVID-19, 4 more tigers and 3 lions from the same zoo have tested positive for it as well. This means that 9 big cats from the Bronx Zoo in New York City have been infected with the virus in total.
Aside from exhibiting a mild cough, Bronx Zoo assures that the animals have gone back to behaving normally after experiencing some symptoms of COVID-19.
Paul Calle, chief veterinarian for the Bronx Zoo, said last April 5 that the diagnosis of Nadia the tiger represented “the first time, to our knowledge, that a [wild] animal has gotten sick from COVID-19 from a person.”
Calle added that they believed Nadia to have contracted the virus from an asymptomatic zookeeper who may not have been aware they were infected. He called it “the only thing that makes sense” as the zoo has been closed to the public since March 16.
The Wildlife Conservation Society, the nonprofit that runs the Bronx Zoo, recently issued a press release announcing that four additional tigers and three lions had tested positive. Their tests were conducted using fecal samples to avoid sedating the big cats.
This is significant as it was previously unknown whether wild and domestic cats were susceptible to SARS-CoV-2. Now, it is becoming clearer that the disease may be passed from humans to animals but the converse is not true. Meaning, there is still no evidence of animals being able to pass the virus on to humans according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“Big cats like tigers and lions are already facing a litany of threats to their survival in the wild,” John Goodrich, chief scientist and tiger program director at Panthera, says. “If COVID-19 jumps to wild big cat populations and becomes a significant cause of mortality, the virus could develop into a very serious concern for the future of these species.”
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