MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Nadia, a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo, has tested positive for COVID-19. She, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions had developed a dry cough and all are expected to recover. This positive COVID-19 test for the tiger was confirmed by USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory. No other animals at the zoo are showing symptoms.
“Though they have experienced some decrease in appetite, the cats at the Bronx Zoo are otherwise doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert, and interactive with their keepers,” the zoo said. “It is not known how this disease will develop in big cats since different species can react differently to novel infections, but we will continue to monitor them closely and anticipate full recoveries.”
The animals were infected by a zoo employee who was “asymptomatically infected with the virus” while caring for them, according to the zoo. Appropriate preventive measures are now in place for all staff who are caring for them, and the other cats in our four WCS zoos, to prevent further exposure of any other of our zoo cats.
So what about the big cats at Zoo Miami?
Zoo Miami Communications Director Ron Magill says on his Facebook page, “We have had a strict policy in place to minimize situations of any keepers being in close proximity of the big cats or the primates and none of our animal science personnel has tested positive for the virus. In addition, unlike many northern zoos such as the Bronx Zoo, where big cats are often kept inside enclosed buildings with limited air circulation where the virus has a better chance of lingering, our animals are constantly outdoors with circulating fresh air that helps limit the concentration of the virus.”
He added, “None of our big cats at Zoo Miami are demonstrating any symptoms and we hope that our policy of greatly limiting the proximity between the animals and their keepers will continue to help ensure the safety of both.”
The Bronx Zoo has been closed to the public since March 16.
Zoo Miami is closed as well.
“We seem to be learning new things about this virus each day as we venture into this unchartered territory. Please know that we are doing everything possible to ensure the safety of all at the zoo,” said Magill.
There is no evidence that animals play a role in the transmission of COVID-19 to people other than the initial event in the Wuhan market, and no evidence that any person has been infected with COVID-19 in the US by animals, including by pet dogs or cats.
It’s an important point for Magill.
“It is my sincere hope that people don’t start reaching conclusions that have not been verified. Please don’t think that this is the fault of any animals. Do not abandon or mistreat these innocent victims of a pandemic that started as a result of humans raiding wild areas and pillaging the wildlife to satisfy their own wants and misguided beliefs. We have opened Pandora’s box and we will hopefully learn a lesson that destroying natural habitats and exploiting its wildlife is not good for any of us,” Magill said.
Anyone sick with the coronavirus is being advised to minimize contact with animals, including pets, until more information is known about the virus, the USDA said.
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