Two tigers at the Denver Zoo test positive for COVID-19.

Two 11-year-old Amur tigers at the Denver Zoo have tested positive for COVID-19.

The tigers, Yuri and Nikita, were tested after “animal care staff observed coughing, sneezing, lethargy, and nasal discharge in both animals,” the zoo said in a Thursday news release. “The tigers tested presumptive positive through fecal and nasal swab samples at the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Fort Collins.”

Yuri and Nikita, who appear to be improving at this time, are the first animals at the Denver Zoo to test positive for COVID-19. No other zoo animals currently show signs of potential infection.

The tigers’ test results were confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

“We’ve known for a long time what species at the Zoo are susceptible to the virus, and we’ve taken every necessary precaution to protect all of our animals,” said Brian Aucone, senior vice president for life sciences at the zoo. “Although we can’t be certain how Yuri and Nikita became infected with COVID-19, we’re fortunate to have an incredible staff with the expertise and experience to recognize their symptoms, and provide excellent care and treatment.”

The zoo’s staff follows strict COVID-19 protocols around its animals, including required use of personal protective equipment, hygiene, cleaning, employee self-screening, and health management, the release said. In 2020, the zoo installed protective barriers around the tigers’ habitat, The Edge, to ensure safe distancing between guests and animals.

Neither tiger had been vaccinated against COVID-19, the release said. Zoo veterinarians plan to vaccinate them, along with other big cats, as more doses of the animal-specific Zoetis vaccine become available.

There is no risk to zoo visitors because of the distance between guests and animals, according to zoo officials. Daily tiger viewings have been suspended until Yuri and Nikita fully recover.


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