A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York City has tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in people, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories. The big cat is thought to be the first animal known to be infected with the virus in the United States.
While other animals, all pets, have tested positive for the presence of the virus, experts say there have been no reported cases of animals spreading the virus to humans.
The tiger was tested for the virus after several of the zoo’s lions and tigers started showing signs of respiratory illness, according to the USDA. The agency expects all of the big cats to recover.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which manages the zoo, identified the tiger as Nadia, a 4-year-old Malayan tiger. The zoo said that Nadia, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers and three African lions, had developed a dry cough. Since the animals must be put under general anesthesia to receive the test, the attending veterinarian decided not to test the other animals, according to the USDA.
All of the tigers live at the zoo’s “Tiger Mountain” exhibit, although a male Amur tiger living at the exhibit did not show any symptoms, according to the WCS.
“We tested the cat out of an abundance of caution and will ensure any knowledge we gain about COVID-19 will contribute to the world’s continuing understanding of this novel coronavirus,” the WCS said in a statement. “Though they have experienced some decrease in appetite, the cats at the Bronx Zoo are otherwise doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert and interactive with their keepers. It is not known how this disease will develop in big cats since different species can react differently to novel infections, but we will continue to monitor them closely and anticipate full recoveries.”