A tiger at the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo has tested positive for the coronavirus, and several other animals have reportedly developed symptoms of the disease, according to the zoo.
“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,” the zoo said in a statement. “This positive COVID-19 test for the tiger was confirmed by USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory, based in Ames, Iowa.”
“We tested the cat out of an abundance of caution and will ensure any knowledge we gain about COVID-19 will contribute to the world’s continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus,” the statement continued. “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. 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 zoo said that the cats were infected by “a person caring for them who was asymptomatically infected with the virus or before that person developed symptoms.”
CNN highlighted a recent study out of China on the ability of the coronavirus, which originated in China, to infect house pets:
Our furry feline friends appear to be susceptible to catching Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. Even worse, the cats in the study were able to infect each other, although they showed no signs of illness.
Ferrets were also able to “catch” the virus, although it didn’t appear to harm them. Dogs, on the other hand, were not susceptible, according to the study. The virus showed up in the feces of five dogs, but no infectious virus was found. Pigs, chickens and ducks were also not very hospitable places for the virus.
But there’s no need for cat or ferret lovers to panic, experts say. There’s no evidence their pets could get very sick or die from the novel coronavirus.
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s Bronx Zoo noted that none of zoo’s snow leopards, cheetahs, clouded leopard, Amur leopard, puma or serval cats had shown any signs of the disease.
“We are grateful for 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 from the tiger were performed; the USDA National Veterinary Services Laboratory where confirmatory testing was conducted; USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service; and the New York and Illinois State Veterinarians and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for their assistance,” the statement concluded. “We will issue additional information as warranted. Our four zoos and aquarium have been temporarily closed since March 16.”
This report has been updated to include additional information.