Coronavirus: 11 African lions at Denver Zoo test positive for COVID-19

DENVER — All 11 African lions housed at the Denver Zoo have tested positive for COVID-19, facility officials confirmed Monday.

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The animals were tested through nasal swab samples after staff noticed they were coughing, sneezing and appeared lethargic, KMGH-TV reported.

According to The Denver Gazette, the outbreak comes after two Amur tigers, Yuri and Nikita, became the zoo’s first animals to test positive for the virus earlier this month.

Zoo officials told the newspaper that the lions began exhibiting coronavirus symptoms shortly after the tigers’ diagnosis, but they do not believe that the outbreaks are related.

“There have been a number of big cats to come down with COVID-19 at zoos throughout the country. Fortunately, the vast majority have fully recovered, and the upside is that there’s an established knowledge base for us to draw from to help treat our animals,” Brian Aucone, the zoo’s senior vice president for life sciences, told the Gazette.

According to KMGH-TV, the ailing lions range in age from 1 to 9 years old, and zoo officials said that the felines’ symptoms are relatively mild at this point, but staff will continue to monitor and treat the animals.

Like the tigers, the lions are unvaccinated against COVID-19, but zoo staff plan to vaccinate all of its big cat species as soon as more doses of the animal-specific vaccine become available, the TV station reported.

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