The 4-year-old big cat is the first known animal in the world to test positive for COVID-19 after being contaminated from a caretaker. It is also believed that the caretaker had not had any symptoms regarding the prevailing virus at that time.
“It’s the first time, to our knowledge, that a [wild] animal has gotten sick from COVID-19 from a person, ” says Paul Calle, chief veterinarian for the Bronx Zoo.
Nadia, the Malayan tiger along with her sister Azul and 5 other big cats including snow leopards, cheetahs, a clouded leopard, an Amur leopard, and a puma are showing symptoms.
“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 sent to AFP said.
“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 statement continued.
“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.”
It is also reported that domestic animals had previously tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, including a Pomeranian and a German shepherd in Hong Kong, a domestic cat in Belgium.
The zoo emphasised that 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. “
A new Chinese study has found out that cats may be able to infect each other, and scientists are rushing to learn what other species may be able to be infected by it.
“It is still recommended that people sick with Covid-19 limit contact with animals until more information is known about the virus,” the department’s website says.
The chief scientist and tiger program director at Panthera, John Goodrich stated, “Big cats like tigers and lions are already facing a litany of threats to their survival in the wild. If COVID-19 jumps to wild big cat populations and becomes a significant cause of mortality, the virus could develop into a very serious concern for the future of these species.”
However, the Bronx Zoo team will keep us updated with the diagnostic information with the zoo and the science community. The chief scientist further said, “ I suspect that there are other cases, and now that we’re sharing this information I have a hunch other likely cases will turn up.” Also, they take preventative measures for caretakers as well as all cats in the city’s zoos.