Three African lions at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans have tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, zoo officials said Wednesday.
Last week, staff noticed the lions were coughing and had nasal discharge. Nasal and fecal samples were collected for three symptomatic lions at the Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Baton Rouge, and the tests confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 for lions Asani, Arnold, and Kali.
The zoo is in the process of testing the three other lions. Officials say all lions have a normal appetite and appear to be doing well, and are showing few symptoms besides coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge. They're currently being quarantined in their habitat, which remains open. Additional barricades have been added in front of the exhibit to further distance guests out of an abundance of caution.
“As with all of the Zoo’s animals, Arnold, Kali, and Asani continue to receive excellent care,” said Audubon’s Senior Veterinarian Bob MacLean. “Audubon’s veterinary and husbandry teams are skilled and dedicated professionals who work tirelessly to ensure the well-being of the animals in our care.”
Officials aren't sure yet how the lions were infected, but say it's most likely they were exposed to an asymptomatic keeper.
The zoo began administering an animal COVID-19 vaccine to gorillas and orangutans in October, but the second phase of vaccinations are still pending, so the lions haven't been vaccinated yet.
MacLean added, “Guests should feel confident in knowing that they are not at risk from animals when visiting the Zoo.”
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