Additional tigers, lions at Bronx Zoo test positive for SARS-CoV-2

April 30, 2020
dvm360 Staff

The big cats were tested via fecal sampling, which does not require general anesthesia.

In late March, the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which manages New York's Bronx Zoo, reported that a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the zoo had tested positive for COVID-19. Several other large cats were also exhibiting mild respiratory signs at the time, but only one tiger was tested because collecting the required nasopharyngeal swab sample necessitated general anesthesia.

Since then, a newly developed fecal test that doesn't require anesthesia was used to determine the infection status the six other big cats, as well as a co-housed asymptomatic tiger. All seven tested positive for the virus, according to a WCS release, as did the tiger that never developed signs of illness. Results were confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratory.

Health officials say the animals became infected following interaction with an asymptomatic zoo caretaker who was actively shedding virus. All of the big cats are recovering and behaving normally.

“We tested the tigers and lions 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 testing of these cats was done in veterinary laboratories and resources used did not take from those being used for human testing,” the WCS statement reads.

No other animals at the zoo are showing signs of respiratory illness.