3 Snow Leopards Die from COVID Complications at Nebraska Zoo: 'Truly Heartbreaking'

The trio of big cats tested positive for the virus in mid-October, according to officials from the Lincoln Children's Zoo

Three Snow Leopards Die From COVID At Nebraska Zoo
Photo: Lincoln Childrens Zoo/Youtube

Three snow leopards have died from COVID-19 complications at the Lincoln Children's Zoo in Nebraska, zoo officials said in a statement on Friday.

The trio of big cats — Ranney, Everest, and Makalu — tested positive for the virus in October, according to a previous statement shared on Facebook.

"It is with deep sadness that we inform our community that three snow leopards at the Lincoln Children's Zoo have passed away due to complications of COVID-19," said zoo officials in Friday's statement, adding that the leopards "were beloved by our entire community inside and outside of the zoo."

"This loss is truly heartbreaking, and we are all grieving together," the statement said.

Meanwhile, two of the zoo's Sumatran tigers, Axl and Kumar, "have made a seemingly full recovery from their illness" after testing positive for COVID in October, according to the statement.

"Given the substantial distance between the animals and visitors, the public is not, nor has been, at any risk," zoo officials said. "No other animals at the Zoo are showing any signs of infection."

A "thorough" investigation conducted by the zoo determined there was "no evidence to pinpoint the source of the infection."

Ranney and Everest were "pretty much inseparable" while living at the facilities in Lincoln, Neb., according to a video posted by the zoo on YouTube in April 2020.

Snow leopards are typically found in 12 mountainous countries in central Asia, according to the World Wildlife Foundation. The species' population is considered vulnerable.

Three Snow Leopards Die From COVID At Nebraska Zoo
Lincoln Childrens Zoo/Youtube

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On Oct. 7, a 2 ½-year-old snow leopard died at the Great Plains Zoo in South Dakota after showing symptoms of COVID. The cat named Baya first exhibited symptoms one day after a tiger named Keesa "tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19."

Baya experienced "a rapid decline of respiratory function" before she ultimately passed away at the zoo in Sioux Falls.

Later that month, 11 lions and two tigers at the Denver Zoo in Colorado tested positive for COVID.

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