As of December 12, 2022, the USDA reported over 397 cases of COVID-19 in animals across the country. 118 of those cases were found in cats, 54 in lions, 55 in tigers, 2 in spotted hyenas, and 1 in cougars. There have been over 15 species affected by the virus.
Here’s a small (small!) list of zoos and some of their affected animals:
St Louis Zoo (Missouri) – 2 lions, 2 snow leopards, 2 jaguars, 1 amur tiger, 1 puma tested positive
Lincoln Children’s Zoo (Nebraska) – 3 snow leopards died, 2 Sumatran tigers tested positive
Smithsonian National Zoo (Washington D.C.) – 6 lions, 1 Sumatran tiger, and 2 amur tigers tested positive
Miller Park Zoo (Illinois) – 1 Sumatran tiger and 4 snow leopards tested positive
- 1 snow leopard died from COVID-induced pneumonia
Denver Zoo (Colorado) – 2 hyenas, 11 lions, and 2 tigers tested positive
Brookfield Zoo (Illinois) – 1 tiger, 1 binturong (bearcat), 1 fishing cat, 1 coatimundi tested positive
Bronx Zoo (New York) – 3 lions, 4 tigers tested positive
San Diego Zoo (California) – 8 gorillas, 1 snow leopard tested positive
Louisville Zoo (Kentucky) – 3 snow leopards tested positive
Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo (Indiana) – 2 tigers tested positive
Virginia Zoo (Virginia) – 2 tigers tested positive
Zoo Atlanta (Georgia) – 8 gorillas tested positive
Pittsburgh Zoo (Philadelphia) – 2 tigers tested positive
Audubon Zoo (Louisiana) – 3 lions tested positive
Grand Rapids Zoo (Michigan) – 1 tiger tested positive
International COVID exposure and deaths:
India – 1 lion died
Pakistan – 2 tiger cubs died
Belgium Zoo – 2 hippos tested positive
What Zoo’s Did
Many of these animals faced similar symptoms. Zoos saw decreased appetites or a loss of appetite. Animals were low energy, lethargic, or showed signs of fatigue. They had many respiratory symptoms, like coughing, sneezing, and raspy breathing. Some zoos saw nasal discharge and runny noses. The Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington D.C. treated their animals with anti-inflammatories, anti-nausea, and antibiotics to soothe symptoms and prevent COVID induced pneumonia.
Global animal health company, Zoetic, developed a COVID vaccine for animals. They have been shipping it to zoos across the country. Zoos are vaccinating their animals in hopes to curve or prevent COVID from affecting their animals. Many of the above listed zoos, like the San Diego Zoo and Zoo Atlantic, have already started vaccinating their animals, including ones who have recovered from having COVID. Zoos have reported seeing no side effects in their animals from receiving the vaccine.
What We Did
TCWR continues to protect our big cats by wearing masks when working with them. Our animal care and education teams are fully vaccinated, and our vet makes decisions based on recommendations of the CDC and USDA. As of December 2022, TCWR has been able to vaccinate 22 of our cats, with plans to vaccinate more as soon as more vaccines are available to us. We take the care and health of our animals very seriously here, as we are their forever home, and our goal is to make their lives as long, healthy, and happy as possible.