Can zoo animals get Covid?

Yes, zoo animals can get Covid from zookeepers, the people who look after the animals. The virus travels through a circuitous route. It seems that humans contracted the virus from an animal in a wet market in Wuhan, China, initially, and it has spread as we all know amongst humans, rapidly.

Then, moving forward, humans have given it back to animals, in this case zoo animals because the disease is zoonotic (transferable between different species). I’m referring to cats. Bronx Zoo is famous for this as it is in New York and New York had a terrible time with a huge number of coronavirus infections amongst people. The Bronx Zoo tigers were in the press a lot having contracted the virus from zookeepers.

Louisville Zoo snow leopard
Louisville Zoo snow leopard. Screenshot from video.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Today, The New York Times, reports that snow leopards are the latest cats to be infected with the coronavirus. They mention that both lions and tigers have already contracted the disease but recovered (at Bronx Zoo). When cats get the disease they have low level symptoms or are asymptomatic but they still get it which means that they can potentially transmit it back to people. That’s the contentious issue with animals contracting the disease. Do they create a reservoir for the disease to be transmitted to people in the future? This applies mainly to domestic animals.

In this instance, snow leopards at the Louisville Zoo are the latest animals to be infected. We are told that a female snow leopard, NeeCee, has tested positive with two males, Kimti and Meru, presumed to be positive. They were tested by a regional veterinary diagnostic centre but the findings are to be confirmed by a national laboratory.

The cats show very minor symptoms of a coronavirus infection such as coughing and wheezing. This appears to be typical of cats with coronavirus. The Kentucky zoo expects the snow leopards to recover without difficulty. The zoo keepers wear face masks but the cats still got the disease.

Although not zoo animals, they were captive animals. I’m referring to the 17 million mink at Denmark’s fur farms which contracted an apparently mutated version of the virus. The authorities were scared that the mink would transmit the virus to people exacerbating an already very difficult situation and so they decided that all of them should be killed. An horrendous state of affairs when you think that the virus was caused by human carelessness and their abuse of nature. What goes around comes around as they say. Futher problems were encountered when they buried the carcasses concerning the escape of toxic substances into the water table and possible Covid-19 releases into the atmosphere. They dug up the bodies and burned them. Horrible.

In respect of zoo animals, I think I’m correct in saying that the only species of animals discussed in the news media are these large cats. I have not read stories about other species contracting the virus but they do answer the question in the title: zoo animals can get the disease and they get it from people.

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Useful tag. Click to see the articles: Cat behavior
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Note: sources for news articles are carefully selected but the news is often not independently verified.

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