The zoo announced that 4-year-old tiger Nadia was the first big cat at its facility to test positive for COVID-19 on April 5

By Ashley Boucher
April 22, 2020 06:09 PM
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Earlier this month, a tiger at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

Nearly three weeks later, the zoo has announced that three more tigers and three lions that had been showing similar symptoms have also tested positive for the contagious virus. An additional tiger that had not shown symptoms also tested positive.

“Samples for testing from the tiger, Nadia, were collected from her nose, throat, and respiratory tract while she was under anesthesia,” the zoo said in a press release Wednesday.

“Subsequently, we can confirm that the three other tigers in Tiger Mountain and the three African lions that exhibited a cough have also tested positive for COVID-19,” the release said.

tiger
Bronx Zoo tiger
| Credit: Julie Larsen Maher

The zoo explained that it has developed a test with its laboratory partners that uses fecal samples from the animals so that they do not have to be put under anesthesia.

The zoo added that the testing of the big cats was done out of an “abundance of caution” and said that it “will ensure any knowledge we gain about COVID-19 will contribute to the world’s continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus.”

“The testing of these cats was done in veterinary laboratories and resources used did not take from those being used for human testing,” the zoo said.

“All eight cats continue to do well,” the zoo said. “They are behaving normally, eating well, and their coughing is greatly reduced.”

Other cats at the zoo — including snow leopards, cheetahs, a clouded leopard, an Amur leopard, a puma and a serval — have not shown any signs of illness.

Nadia, the first tiger to test positive at the zoo, and the other cats were infected by a worker who was asymptomatic at the time they were caring for the animals.

The zoo’s chief veterinarian, Paul Calle, shared an update on the cats back on April 10, saying that “none of them were seriously ill and all of them are showing daily, progressive signs of improvement.”

“We expect full recoveries for all of them,” he added.

The zoo has been closed to the public since March 16, and “preventative measures” have been put in place for staff to ensure animals’ safety.

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