Bronx Zoo Tiger Tests Positive for COVID-19

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One of the Amur Tigers at the Bronx Zoo
Source: Julie Larsen Maher, bronxzoo.com (accessed Apr. 6, 2020)

Nadia, a four-year-old Malayan tiger, has tested positive for COVD-19 (coronavirus) at the Bronx Zoo in New York City.

Nadia, along with her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions, are thought to have been infected by an asymptomatic zoo keeper. The cats started showing symptoms in late March that included a dry cough and loss of appetite, but all are expected to fully recover.

The zoo chose to test only Nadia for COVID-19 (coronavirus) because she was the sickest of all of the cats and the testing requires putting the cats under anesthesia. The test used for Nadia is not the same kind used for humans.

Paul Calle, Chief Veterinarian at the Bronx Zoo, stated, “This is the first time that any of us know of anywhere in the world that a person infected the animal and the animal got sick.”

The CDC said that “In the United States, there is no evidence to suggest that any animals, including pets, livestock, or wildlife, might be a source of COVID-19 infection at this time. However, because all animals can carry germs that can make people sick, it’s always a good idea to practice healthy habits around pets and other animals.”

The Bronx Zoo has been closed to the public since Mar. 16, 2020, a move mirrored by zoos across the country. The Houston Zoo, for example, wrote in a statement, “We recognize that visiting the Zoo is much more than experiencing wildlife up close, but is also an opportunity to enjoy the wonder of the natural world with family and friends… As a public health precaution to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Houston Zoo is temporarily closing to the public through April 30, 2020.”

Allison Jungheim, senior zookeeper at Minnesota’s Como Zoo, said, “The animals are [used to] having a constant influx of people watching them, looking at them. To have it all of a sudden be absolutely nothing has been a bit of a shock to some of them.” Social animals such as orangutans, penguins, and otters seem to be missing their usual interactions with zoo visitors. Other animals such as the lesser kudu (a species of antelope) might be feeling more at ease during the closures, Jungheim said.

Even though zoos are closed to the public, essential staff still must come to work to care for the animals. Many zoos are using social media and live video streams to showcase their exhibits during the closures.

Discussion Questions – Things to Think About
1. How many pros and cons of keeping animals in zoos can you list? Which arguments do you find the most convincing and why?

2. How do you think daily life is different for animals while the zoos are closed to visitors? What are the pros and cons for the animals?

3. What are some ways that we can protect zoo animals during pandemics? Explain your answer.

Sources:

Erin Adler, “At the Como and Minnesota Zoos, the Animals Must Adjust to the Coronavirus Too,” startribune.com, Apr. 3, 2020

BBC, “Coronavirus: Tiger at Bronx Zoo Tests Positive for Covid-19,” bbc.com, Apr. 6, 2020

Jason Bittel, “Zoos Are Closed Because of Coronavirus, but the Animals Still Need Care,” washingtonpost.com, Mar. 27, 2020

CDC, “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): If You Have Animals,” cdc.gov, Mar. 27, 2020

Lucy Diavolo, “A Bronx Zoo Tiger Tested Positive for the Coronavirus,” teenvogue.com, Apr. 6, 2020

Alaa Elassar, “A Tiger at the Bronx Zoo Tests Positive for Coronavirus,” cnn.com, Apr. 6, 2020

Houston Zoo, “Health Updates,” houstonzoo.org (accessed Apr. 6, 2020)