KEY POINTS

  • Four tigers and three lions from the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the coronavirus
  • A total of eight large cats from the Bronx Zoo have now tested positive for COVID-19 
  • The cats were likely infected by an infected zoo staff
  • There is no evidence that animals can pass the coronavirus to humans

It was earlier in April one of the Bronx Zoo's Malayan tigers tested positive for COVID-19. On Wednesday (April 22), officials announced more big cats tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

In a statement, Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) announced apart from 4-year-old Malayan tiger, Nadia, seven other big cats have now tested positive for COVID-19. Specifically, three tigers and three African lions, who had a cough, tested positive for the coronavirus, along with one tiger that did not develop a cough.

"We tested the tigers and lions out of an abundance of caution and will ensure any knowledge we gain about COVID-19 will contribute to the world’s continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus," WCS said. "None of the zoo’s snow leopards, cheetahs, clouded leopard, Amur leopard, puma or serval are showing any signs of illness."

All eight cats that tested positive are now doing well and behaving normally. Their cough has reportedly "greatly" reduced. 

The Bronx Zoo has been temporarily closed due to the coronavirus since March 16, and the large cats began showing symptoms March 27. According to WCS, the cats were likely infected by a zoo staff member who was infected with the virus, but was asymptomatic or before the person developed symptoms.

That said, although humans have likely passed the coronavirus to animals, there is so far no evidence the vice versa can happen.

"It is believed that the virus was first transferred to people at a food market that trades in wildlife in Wuhan, China," WCS said. "There is no evidence that animals play a role in the transmission of COVID-19 to people other than the initial event in the Wuhan market, and no evidence that any person has been infected with COVID-19 in the US by animals, including by pet dogs or cats."

Incidentally, it was also on Wednesday when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the United States Agricultural Service announced two pet cats in New York state tested positive for the disease. 

In the announcement, the agencies also reiterated the message about the transfer of the virus from humas to animals.

The Malayan tiger Nadia who tested positive for COVID-19 The Malayan tiger Nadia was the first big cat at the Bronx Zoo to test positive for COVID-19. Photo: Wildlife Conservation Society / JULIE LARSEN MAHER