Photo by: JULIE LARSEN MAHER

JULIE LARSEN MAHER

Bronx Zoo Tigers and Lions have Tested Positive for COVID-19

By: Discovery

Nadia, as seen on Animal Planet’s THE ZOO, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus along with six other large cats—all are expected to recover, according to zoo officials.

April 05, 2020

[UPDATED 4/22/20]

On April 5, 2020, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo released a statement that Nadia, a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo, has tested positive for COVID-19. Nadia was featured in the 2017 series premiere of Animal Planet's THE ZOO, which took audiences behind the scenes of the world-renowned Bronx Zoo.

According to zoo officials, they tested Nadia out of an abundance of caution and will ensure any knowledge gained about COVID-19 will contribute to the world’s continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus. The positive COVID-19 test for the tiger was confirmed by USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory, based in Ames, Iowa. Samples for testing from the tiger, Nadia, were collected from her nose, throat, and respiratory tract while she was under anesthesia.

On April 5th, it was also reported that Nadia's sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions had developed a dry cough, one of the symptoms of COVID-19. It's now confirmed that the three other tigers in Tiger Mountain and the three African lions that exhibited a cough have also tested positive for COVID-19. This testing was done by using a fecal sample test developed by laboratory partners that does not require the animals be placed under anesthesia. The fecal tests confirmed the suspicion that all seven cats had the infection, and also determined that one tiger at Tiger Mountain that never developed a cough was also positive for the disease.

The Bronx Zoo thanks the cooperation and support of the New York State Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University and the University of Illinois, College of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, where the initial COVID-19 testing of samples was performed and the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory where confirmatory testing was conducted.

All eight cats continue to do well. They are behaving normally, eating well, and their coughing is greatly reduced,” said zoo officials. It is not known how this disease will develop in big cats since different species can react differently to novel infections, but the zoo will continue to monitor them closely and anticipate full recoveries.

So far, none of the zoo’s snow leopards, cheetahs, clouded leopard, Amur leopard, puma, or serval are showing any signs of illness. Zoo officials said the cats were infected by a person caring for them who was asymptomatically infected with the virus or before that person developed symptoms. However, appropriate preventive measures are now in place for all staff who are caring for the cats, and the other cats in our four WCS zoos, to prevent further exposure of any other of zoo cats.

To check in on how Nadia and the animals are doing at the Bronx Zoo and learn more about COVID-19 and animals, tune into THE ZOO: COVID-19 & YOUR ANIMALS on Saturday, April 25th AT 11P ET on Animal Planet.

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