Tigers at Virginia Zoo test positive for COVID-19

Tigers at Virginia Zoo test positive for COVID-19
Stubbley is laying down and Osceola is sitting. (Source: Virginia Zoo)

NORFOLK, Va. (WWBT) - At least two Malayan tigers at the Virginia Zoo have tested positive for COVID-19 after preliminary testing.

The tigers, Stubbley and Osceola, developed mild respiratory symptoms that included a dry cough and wheezing last week, the zoo said. The symptoms were consistent with other coronavirus cases that have been found in big cats at other zoos.

“Non-invasive testing was performed, which doesn’t require the animals to be placed under anesthesia. Results from voluntary nasal swabs and the collection of fecal samples tested positive for the virus,” the Virginia Zoo said.

A third tiger, Christopher, has also developed mild respiratory symptoms and is being tested for the virus.

Even though there has been no indication that humans can catch COVID-19 from big cats, all three have been moved off exhibit.

“The zoo’s tiger exhibit is also significantly distanced from visitor pathways. The closest contact a visitor could have to the animal is more than 40 feet. The close viewing areas of the tigers, such as their pool or cave, are completely enclosed by glass and rock work. The zoo is confident that there would be no opportunity to transmit the virus from the tigers to a visitor,” the zoo said.

At this time, it is unknown how the tigers contracted the virus.

All other reported COVID-19 cases in big cats at other facilities have reported a full recovery, so the Virginia Zoo is confident that Stubbley and Osceola will do the same.

The zoo says Stubbley and Osceola are in good spirits and receiving care from the Veterinary and Animal Care Staff. Their symptoms already seem to be improving.

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