First tiger tests positive for COVID-19 at New York’s Bronx Zoo

A Malayan tiger (not the individual pictured here) has tested positive for COVID-19 at Bronx Zoo
A Malayan tiger (not the individual pictured here) has tested positive for COVID-19 at Bronx Zoo.  wrangel/Depositphotos.

In the first case of its kind, a four-year-old tiger at New York City’s Bronx Zoo has tested positive for COVID-19, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has confirmed. The female Malayan tiger is believed to have been infected by a worker, with a number of other big cats displaying symptoms, according to the zoo. All are expected to make a full recovery.

The zoo tested the animals out of “an abundance of caution,” with the tiger’s positive COVID-19 result confirmed by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) National Veterinary Services Laboratory. The four-year-old Nadia had developed a dry cough, along with her sister Azul, a pair of Amur tigers and three African lions. All also experienced some decrease in appetite.

Despite this, the zoo says the big cats are under close veterinary care and are alert and interacting with the keepers as normal. The organization believes Nadia contracted COVID-19 from a worker who was asymptomatic at the time, and says that preventative measures have since been put in place to protect other staff and animals at the zoo.

As the zoo notes, it is unclear how the disease will develop in big cats. It will closely observe the animals with the intention of sharing any discoveries in this regard, as the world grapples with the many unknowns of the novel coronavirus.

While there is no evidence that animals can transmit SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, to humans, researchers conducting lab experiments in China have found that infected cats can pass the virus on to other cats. The same researchers found that dogs were much less susceptible to the infection.

The USDA also released a statement in relation to the infected tiger, saying this is the first case of its type. While noting that there are currently no reports of domestic pets becoming sick with COVID-19 in the US, it recommends that those with the illness limit their contact with animals until more is learned about the transmission of the virus.

Sources: Wildlife Conservation Society, US Department of Agriculture

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