Tiger Tests Positive for Coronavirus – First Known Case In the World
The first known case of a non-domesticated animal with COVID-19 symptoms is the big cat at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, and it is one of seven sick tigers there.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Sunday that at the Bronx Zoo in New York City, a tiger, named Nadia, has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, and six other big cats are exhibiting symptoms consistent with the illness.
The chief veterinarian for the Bronx Zoo, Paul Calle said, “A wild animal has gotten sick from COVID-19 from a person and this is the first time of such a case, to our knowledge. Nadia, the tiger, is believed to have likely contracted the coronavirus from an unknown infected but asymptomatic zookeeper. Since March 16, the zoo has been closed to visitors and this possibility is the only thing that makes sense.”
Previously, many domestic animals were tested positive for COVID-19, including a domestic cat in Belgium, a German shepherd and a Pomeranianin in Hong Kong.
Both domestic and wild cats and susceptible to feline coronavirus. However, whether they could contract SARS-CoV-2 or not wasunknown until recently. Scientists are rushing to learn what other species may be able to be infected by it as a new Chinese study has found that cats may be able to infect each other.
World’s First Non-Domesticated Animal Known Case
According to Calle, the four-year-old Malayan tiger, Nadia, was tested for the virus on April 2, after developing a dry cough in late March. Two Siberian tigers, three African lions and Nadia’s sister, have had coughs and a loss of appetite, and are yet to be tested. There are seven cats in the zoo that are expected to recover and are under veterinary care.
In a news release, the nonprofit that runs the Bronx Zoo, the Wildlife Conservation Society cautioned that how the disease might progress in animals is still unknown.
A number of diagnostic tests and blood work were done by the veterinary team when Nadia first started showing symptoms. Calle says, “We, of course, did the COVID testing, considering all that’s been going on in New York. After sedating Nadia, the team took samples at the zoo. The samples were sent for testing to the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and New York State Diagnostic Laboratory at Cornell University. There is no competition for testing between the tests done for people and for animals as it is not the same type of test that health care providers give to people.”
There is currently no evidence that domestic or captive wild animals can spread the novel coronavirus to people, according to the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What happens now?
Calle says, there are so many questions that are still unanswered, including if tigers and lions, when compared to other animals, are more susceptible to coronavirus, because all of this is completely new. Apart from the tiger that tested positive for coronavirus in the zoo, none of the other big cats are showing any symptoms, the big cats including a puma, an Amur leopard, a clouded leopard, cheetahs, and snow leopards.
As great apes can easily catch respiratory illnesses from humans, around the country, zookeepers have been making extra efforts to protect great apes in their care. Apes may be particularly susceptible to coronavirus, warned the experts.
At Panthera, a global big cat conservation organization, the chief scientist and tiger program director, John Goodrich is concerned for populations of the wild tiger. He said, “In the wild, big cats like lions and tigers are already facing a number of threats to their survival. The COVID-19 virus could develop into a very serious concern for the future of these species if the virus jumps to wild big cat populations and becomes a significant cause of mortality.”