A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City has tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, and six other big cats are exhibiting symptoms consistent with the illness, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Sunday afternoon.
“Nadia, a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo, has tested positive for COVID-19. She, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions had developed a dry cough and all are expected to recover,” the statement read.
The diagnosis was confirmed by USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Iowa “out of an abundance of caution,” the society said.
“It’s the first time, to our knowledge, that a [wild] animal has gotten sick from COVID-19 from a person,” says Paul Calle, chief veterinarian for the Bronx Zoo.
The Malayan tiger, named Nadia, likely contracted the coronavirus from an infected—but unknown—asymptomatic zookeeper. “It’s the only thing that makes sense,” Calle says. The zoo has been closed to visitors since March 16.
“Though they have experienced some decrease in appetite, the cats at the Bronx Zoo are otherwise doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert, and interactive with their keepers,” the zoo said.
Anyone sick with the coronavirus is being advised to minimize contact with animals, including pets, until more information is known about the virus, the USDA said.
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,” according to the CDC.
“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 agency notes.