Three snow leopards have tested positive for COVID-19 at a zoo in Kentucky, after coming into contact with humans carrying the virus.
The US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service confirmed that two males and one female tested positive for the virus at Louisville Zoo, making them the sixth animal species to contract coronavirus.
All three of the big cats have been experiencing wheezing and dry coughs, however their symptoms have been described as ‘mild’ and they’re expected to make a full recovery.
It’s thought that the animals must’ve picked up the virus from an asymptomatic staff member, despite the fact precautions were put in place, CNN reports.
‘Since the start of the pandemic, our staff have been wearing protective equipment when around our animals and following all the safety guidelines from public health officials. However, recently our zookeepers noticed that our snow leopards, Kimti, Meru and Neecee, were minor respiratory symptoms, including an occasional dry cough and wheezing,’ Louisville Zoo director John Walczak said in a video statement, posted to Facebook.
‘We acted immediately, and had samples sent to veterinary diagnostic experts for testing. Today, we learned that our snow leopards have tested positive for the COVID virus. We continue to monitor their health, their symptoms are very mild and all three snow leopards are expected to recover.’
He went on to say that staff at the zoo are taking ‘appropriate precautions, for everyone’s safety,’ adding that no other animals in the zoo are showing symptoms and are ‘all doing well’.
The zoo remains open, as the leopards are highly unlikely to pose any threat in transmitting the virus to humans, however Walczak urged visitors to stay safe by maintaining social distancing, wearing masks and ‘washing those paws’.
The snow leopards are the sixth known species of animal to contract the virus, after a Malayan tiger tested positive for COVID-19 at the Bronx Zoo back in April. Staff at the zoo were alerted after the tiger began showing respiratory symptoms, and by the end of the month eight big cats, including four other tigers and three African lions, tested positive.
A very small number of cats and dogs are known to have tested positive, however it’s not believed to be life-threatening in the vast majority of animals.
Meanwhile, millions of mink have been culled after various outbreaks were discovered across fur farms.
Here’s to wishing Kimti, Meru and Neecee a speedy recovery.
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