Despite a report that a tiger at a New York zoo has tested positive for COVID-19, zoo operators elsewhere are still waiting for definitive confirmation.
On Sunday, The Associated Press reported a four-year-old Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo had tested positive for the virus, and six other tigers and lions were also ill.
The zoo said it believed the animals were infected by a zoo employee who wasn’t yet showing virus symptoms.
Only the four-year-old tiger was tested, because it takes anesthesia to get a sample from a big cat, and she had already been knocked out to be examined.
But Serena Bos, head zookeeper and animal trainer at Discovery Wildlife Park in Innisfail, said the test result for the tiger has yet to be confirmed for other zoo operators.
“Every zoo in the world wants to know if it’s COVID-19 or not, because it does change protocols for many zoos, especially if they have larger staff numbers. But right now, there hasn’t been any confirmation that it is, in fact, COVID-19. News isn’t always true,” Bos said.
She said the park has consulted with its veterinarian and it is not concerned about the possibility of its seven staff members spreading the virus, because all are isolating at home when they are not working.
Just like doctors and nurses, the work park staff do prevents them from separating themselves by two metres on the job.
Discovery Wildlife Park has a Siberian tiger named Sheera who is about 19 years old, which is extremely elderly for a tiger.
“She has some onset of arthritis, which is to be expected in a cat that age, but she’s happy and healthy and doing well.”
She said the park, which is 98 per cent outdoors, is allowed to open to the public under federal regulations during the COVID-19 outbreak. Usually, it opens May 1, but this year, the goal is to open on the May long weekend.
“We just feel like we would be a really good outlet for people who need to be out and doing stuff,” Bos said.
Experts say the coronavirus outbreaks around the world are driven by person-to-person transmission.
There have been a handful of reports outside the U.S. of pet dogs or cats becoming infected after close contact with contagious people, including a Hong Kong dog that tested positive for a low level of the pathogen in February and early March.
Hong Kong agriculture authorities concluded that pet dogs and cats couldn’t pass the virus to human beings, but could test positive if exposed by their owners.
The American Veterinary Medical Association and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been recommending that out of an abundance of caution, people ill with the coronavirus should limit contact with animals — advice that the veterinary group reiterated after learning of the New York tiger’s test result.
In general, the CDC also advises people to wash their hands after handling animals and do other things to keep pets and their homes clean.
— With files from The Associated Press