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Tigers test positive for COVID-19 at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium

Tigers on the mend
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Posted at 8:17 PM, Nov 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-12 21:17:25-05

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — According to a release from Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium, two tigers at the zoo have tested positive for COVID-19.

The zoo said, “When the 11-year-old female Tiger began to cough, the Veterinary staff knew from colleague’s descriptions and videos of infected Tigers that COVID-19 was likely; and they requested samples from many of the Zoo’s large cats.”

After collecting nasal swabs from the cats, and with the help of the Douglas County Health Department, the samples were tested at the Nebraska Public Health Laboratory which normally examines human samples.

Swabs for two of the zoo’s Amur tigers tested positive while those collected from snow leopards and two lions did not.

As to how much the virus is impacting the cats, the zoo said, “The eight-year-old male and 11-year-old female Tigers have shown minor symptoms including coughing, sneezing, mild lethargy, and mild decrease in appetite. Animal Care staff are providing supportive care. Staff also report that the Tigers’ appetites and attitudes are back to normal, although they still have an occasional cough. Zoo staff are optimistic that the Tigers will fully recover. No other animals at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium have shown clinical signs consistent with COVID-19 at this time.”

“The care of our animals is central to everything we do at Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium,” said Dr. Sarah Woodhouse, DVM, Dipl. ACZM, Director of Animal Health for Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium. “Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have taken extra precautions to protect our animals from COVID-19, especially those species we know are more susceptible to the virus. As more information becomes available, we continue to update our safety protocols to best protect the animals in our care, our dedicated Zoo staff, and our community.”

In October, a snow leopard at another zoo died due to COVID-19 complications so the zoo put new protocols in place to minimize exposure to the zoo’s animals.

The zoo says further safety precautions have been put in place following the two positive cases.

And more help may be on the way.

“Zoetis is developing a SARS-COV-2 vaccine for animals and has given free doses to several U.S. Zoos. Omaha’s Zoo and Aquarium Veterinary staff have been working with Zoetis since late September to secure several doses of vaccine in the company’s second round of distribution. Although the vaccine is still considered experimental at this time, Veterinarians at zoos that received vaccines in the first round of distribution have seen no significant adverse effects in vaccinated animals of any species. Once Zoetis has USDA approval to distribute the vaccine, Veterinary staff intends to vaccinate the most at-risk felids. Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium will continue to provide vaccine updates as changes occur,” said the zoo.

The zoo added, “Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is committed to the safety and well-being of our guests, animals, and employees, and will make changes as needed based on actual operating conditions and guidance from public health experts. The Zoo has adopted the principles of "Healthy You, Healthy Zoo," and this program will remain in place as a reminder of safe practices. The Zoo is still encouraging unvaccinated guests to wear face masks, especially indoors or where maintaining six feet of distance may not be possible.”

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