Zoo monitoring big cats for virus

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo is shown in winter 2014. A tiger at the Bronx Zoo is the first U.S. animal to test positive for coronavirus. Dreamstime/TNS

WATERTOWN — Staff at the Thompson Park zoo will keep a closer eye on the zoo’s lynx, bobcats and mountain lions for the coronavirus after it was learned that a tiger at Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19.

Larry Sorel, executive director of the New York State Zoo at Thompson Park, said the staff was already conducting daily monitoring of the zoo animals but also will keep a closer eye on animals from the cat family at the zoo.

Without showing signs, there’s no need to complete medical exams on the animals otherwise, he said. No one at the zoo has tested positive.

The tiger at the Bronx Zoo exhibited a dry cough and was then tested. A test confirmed a zoo employee had contracted COVID-19. It’s the first instance that a tiger tested positive for the virus.

As he understands it, Mr. Sorel said it only involves animals from the cat family.

He “wasn’t totally surprised” that it happened.

“So much is unique and unknown about the virus,” he said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Sunday that the zoo worker appears to have spread COVID-19 to the tiger.

“Public health officials believe these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was actively shedding virus,” according to the USDA announcement.

“The zoo has been closed to the public since mid-March, and the first tiger began showing signs of sickness on March 27. All of these large cats are expected to recover. There is no evidence that other animals in other areas of the zoo are showing symptoms.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

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