Bronx Zoo Vet Says Tiger Infected with COVID-19 Is Showing Daily 'Signs of Improvement'
Nadia the tiger and the other Bronx Zoo big cats that developed coughs are expected to fully recover from their illnesses
Nadia the tiger made headlines over the weekend when it was confirmed that the big cat from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo in New York tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).
Nadia, a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger, was tested by the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory after she — along with six other cats at the zoo — developed a dry cough, the WCS said in a news release.
The news led many zoos to reevaluate their approach to coronavirus protection for their big cats and other animals, and to a renewed interest in how COVID-19 affects domestic felines.
In Animal Planet’s upcoming episode of The Zoo — a reality series that follows the behind-the-scenes happenings at the Bronx Zoo — the facility’s chief veterinarian, Paul Calle, will provide a special 10-minute update on how Nadia and the other big cats that developed coughs are doing.
Animal Planet provided PEOPLE an exclusive sneak peek at Calle’s update, which will appear on the episode of The Zoo airing Saturday, April 11. Additionally, The Zoo tomorrow night will feature Bronx Zoo Director Jim Breheny with a general Bronx Zoo update; Extinct or Alive’s wildlife biologist, Forrest Galante providing insight on COVID-19 and how it relates to wildlife, and Dr. Jeff of Dr. Jeff: Rocky Mountain Vet discussing if and how the virus affects pets.
In the clip above, Calle explains how the zoo obtained samples from Nadia for testing, and how those samples were tested. While it is currently unclear who spread the infection to Nadia, Calle says the zoo “is sure it is a person” who spread COVID-19 to the big cat.
The chief veterinarian adds that Nadia’s positive COVID-19 test is a learning experience for the Bronx Zoo and other zoos worldwide.
“This wasn’t supposed to happen to lions, and tigers, and other big cats, so now we are writing the book about what happens when a lion or tiger gets infected by COVID, and we have shared the information so everyone can benefit.”
Luckily, it appears that Nadia and all the other Bronx Zoo cats that developed coughs will recover from their illnesses.
“None of them were seriously ill and all of them are showing daily, progressive signs of improvement,” Calls adds on how the big cats are doing now. “We expect full recoveries for all of them.”
Following Nadia’s positive test, the Bronx zoo has increased their “preventative protocols” for big cats and has extended their stricter social-distancing protocols to the zoo’s smaller wild cats as well.
While Nadia did test positive for COVID-19, there is no evidence the tiger is capable of spreading the infection to humans.
The United States Department of Agriculture reiterated these beliefs in their recent statement on the Bronx Zoo tiger testing positive for coronavirus.
“At this time, there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets or livestock, can spread COVID-19 infection to people,” the USDA wrote in their statement, adding that they are monitoring the situation with the CDC.
To get the full update on Nadia the tiger and the Bronx Zoo’s other animals, tune in to an all-new episode of The Zoo on Animal Planet at 9:00 p.m. EST on April 11.
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.