Snow leopard at San Diego Zoo suspected positive for COVID-19

SAN DIEGO (KSWB) – The San Diego Zoo announced Friday a male snow leopard at their facility is suspected to be positive for COVID-19.

Wildlife care specialists Thursday said they noticed that the snow leopard had a cough and nasal discharge.

“The origin of the possible exposure is still being investigated as we continue our contact tracing efforts,” zoo officials said in a statement. “In an abundance of caution, the leopard habitat will be closed to Zoo visitors until further notice. We ask that you keep our snow leopard and the incredible team of dedicated wildlife care professionals and veterinarians who serve him in your thoughts during this time.”

Fecal samples from the snow leopard were collected by the staff and the test confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19.

“The results were sent to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System (CAHFS) for further testing, and those results also were positive,” zoo officials said. “All positive tests for SARS-CoV-2 are required to be sent to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL), where the results are still pending.”

The San Diego Zoo confirmed the male snow leopard “appears to be doing well, and is showing no additional symptoms other than the cough and runny nose.”

“He shares his habitat with a female snow leopard and two Amur leopards,” zoo officials said. “San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance veterinarians assume these three individuals have also been exposed. They are currently being quarantined in their habitat. Veterinarians are monitoring them closely, and will treat symptoms as they may arise. Because these Amur leopards and snow leopards are being quarantined, their habitat will be closed to Zoo visitors until further notice.”

Zoo officials said it is not yet known how the male snow leopard became infected.

“While we await the results of tests to determine if the snow leopard is positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, we can assure you the snow leopard and the Amur leopards who share his habitat are receiving excellent care,” said Dwight Scott, executive director at San Diego Zoo. “Our veterinary teams and wildlife care specialists at both the Zoo and Safari Park are highly skilled, dedicated professionals who work tirelessly to ensure the well-being of the wildlife in our care.”

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