US zoo animals die from Covid-19

At least three snow leopards have died, a tiger tested positive and five other big cats have symptoms of coronavirus

Three snow leopards died from Covid-19 at Lincoln Children's Zoo in Nebraska. Other animals at US zoos have also tested positive for the virus. AP
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Three snow leopards have died at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska of complications from Covid-19.

The zoo made the announcement in a Facebook post on Friday, describing the deaths of the three leopards – named Ranney, Everest, and Makalu – as “truly heartbreaking”.

The zoo began treating the leopards and two Sumatran tigers for the virus last month. The zoo said the tigers, Axl and Kumar, have made a recovery.

The zoo said it remained open to the public and continued to take precautions to prevent the spread of Covid-19 to humans and animals.

Zoos across the country, including at the St Louis Zoo and the Denver Zoo, have battled Covid-19 outbreaks among their animals.

Meanwhile, officials at a Sioux Falls zoo say Covid-19 may have killed one of their snow leopards as well.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported in October that the animal, named Baya, died at the Great Plains Zoo on Thursday of a respiratory illness that might have been Covid-19. Test results are pending.

The snow leopard began coughing and only a day later she was acting lethargic and wouldn’t eat. Vets at the zoo gave Baya antibiotics on but she was in critical condition later in the day.

Baya was two-and-a-half-years-old and had been at the zoo since early 2021. Zoo officials had hoped she would mate with another snow leopard named Strut.

Zoo officials said a tiger at the zoo tested positive for Covid-19 the day before Baya died. Five other big cats at the zoo have shown Covid-19 symptoms, including Strut.

Most of the animals have been on antibiotics and are improving, said Matt Eschenbrenner, the zoo’s director of animal care and conservation.

He said the zoo hoped to bring in another snow leopard to replace Baya but it was unclear when that animal might arrive.

“We can’t even think about bringing in another animal until we know everything has passed and our animals are healthy, 100 per cent,” Mr Eschenbrenner said.

Updated: November 16, 2021, 2:13 PM