Three snow leopards at Nebraska zoo die after contracting COVID

Three snow leopards Ranney, Everest, and Malaku die of COVID at Nebraska zoo

  • Three snow leopards at the Children’s Zoo in Lincoln, Nebraska, died of COVID just a month after testing positive
  • Ranney, Everest, and Malaku had first tested positive for COVID on October 13, along with a pair of Sumatran tigers who have since made a full recovery
  • Veterinarians attempted to treat the snow leopards with an aggressive regimen of steroids and antibiotics that ultimately proved unsuccessful
  • It remains unknown as to whether the three snow leopards were vaccinated against the virus 
  • Reports of COVID infections are on the rise in the US as zoos in Denver and in St Louis, Missouri, confirmed some of their animals tested positive this month
  • Infections have been reported in multiple species worldwide, mostly in animals that had close contact with a person with COVID-19, according to US officials
  • The Department of Agriculture is asking people with COVID-19 to avoid close contact with animals, including pets, to protect them from possible infection

Three snow leopards at a zoo in Nebraska have died of complications from COVID-19 after a month-long battle failed to heal the rare animals.

The Lincoln Children’s Zoo announced in a Facebook post Friday the deaths of the three leopards – named Ranney, Everest, and Makalu – calling the loss ‘truly heartbreaking.’

‘Our leopards … were beloved by our entire community inside and outside of the zoo,’ the popular zoo in the state capital said in a statement on Facebook. 

The three leopards along with two Sumatran tigers contracted the virus last month. The zoo, which houses over 400 animals, including more than 40 endangered species, said the tigers, named Axl and Kumar, have made a recovery.

A trio of snow leopards at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo, in Nebraska, died from COVID-19 complications on Friday 

The Lincoln Children’s Zoo announced that leopards, Ranney, Everest, and Makalu, died from COVID after a month of being on antibiotics

The Lincoln Children’s Zoo released a statement on Friday on the deaths of the snow leopards without mentioning whether the animals were vaccinated 

‘[The zoo] remains open to the public and continues to take every precaution to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to humans and animals,’ the zoo announced after the deaths. ‘We will continue following the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV) and CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of our animals, staff, and community.’ 

A spokesperson for the zoo added that ‘it is very tough to lose any animal unexpectedly, especially one as rare and loved as the snow leopard.’   

The trio of snow leopards had nasal swabs and fecal samples taken after animal keepers had ‘observed symptoms consistent with the virus in felids,’ which can include difficulty breathing or shortness of breath. 

The zoo said that the snow leopards and tigers were being treated ‘with steroids and antibiotics to prevent secondary infection.’ 

The Lincoln Children’s Zoo lamented the deaths of Ranney, Everest and Makalu in a Facebook post, saying the mountain cats ‘were beloved by our entire community inside and outside of the zoo’

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

Two days ago, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that two African lions and six other big cats at the city’s zoo have tested positive for the virus. The animals are expected to make a full recovery.

Besides the lions, two snow leopards, two jaguars, an Amur tiger and a puma at the zoo have also been infected.     

Eight big cats at the St Louis Zoo have tested positive for COVID, including two African lions (one pictured here), two snow leopards, two jaguars , one Amur tiger and a puma

Most of the animals showed no signs of illness. Some of them, including this tiger, showed a decrease in their appetite and less activity for short periods of time

On November 5, two unvaccinated hyenas at the Denver Zoo tested positive for COVID, the first confirmed cases among the species worldwide, a national veterinary lab said. 

Samples from a variety of animals at the zoo, including the spotted hyenas, were tested after several lions at the facility became ill, according to the National Veterinary Services Laboratories. 

The hyena samples tested presumptive positive at a lab at Colorado State University, and the cases were confirmed by the national lab.

In addition to the two hyenas, 11 lions and two tigers at the zoo tested positive for the virus.

‘Hyenas are famously tough, resilient animals that are known to be highly tolerant to anthrax, rabies and distemper. They are otherwise healthy and expected to make a full recovery,’ the zoo said in a statement.

Zoo officials said the hyenas — 22-year-old Ngozi and 23-year-old Kibo — are experiencing mild symptoms, including slight lethargy, some nasal discharge and an occasional cough. 

The other animals that tested positive in recent weeks have either fully recovered or are on the path to a full recovery.  

‘We now know that many other species may be susceptible to COVID-19 based on multiple reports, and we continue to use the highest level of care and precaution when working with all of our 3,000 animals and 450 different species,’ the statement said.

Ngozi (pictured) and Kibo, older adults in hyena years, were not vaccinated against COVID-19 when they contracted the virus earlier this month. Coronavirus infections among zoo animals are on the rise in the US 

Kibo (pictured) also tested positive for the coronavirus, Denver zoo officials said

Infections have been reported in multiple species worldwide, mostly in animals that had close contact with a person with COVID-19, according the the United States Department of Agriculture, which oversees the NVSL.

A news release at the beginning of the month said scientists are still learning about coronavirus infections in animals, but based on the information available, the risk of animals spreading the virus to people is low.

People with COVID-19 should avoid close contact with animals, including pets, to protect them from possible infection, according to the news release.

The NVSL serves as an international reference lab, providing testing for foreign and emerging animal diseases, as well as offering guidance on diagnostic techniques.

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