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Big cats test positive for COVID at Lincoln Children's Zoo
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Big cats test positive for COVID at Lincoln Children's Zoo

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Lincoln Children's Zoo tigers

Kumar (left) and Axl moved to the Lincoln Children's Zoo in October 2018 from the San Diego Zoo. The two Sumatran tigers and the zoo's three snow leopards have tested positive for COVID.

Atlanta's zoo says at least 18 western lowland gorillas have tested positive for COVID-19, including 60-year-old Ozzie, the oldest male gorilla in captivity.

Five big cats at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo have tested positive for COVID-19, the zoo announced Wednesday.

Over the weekend, zookeepers noticed the animals exhibiting symptoms consistent with the virus, spokeswoman Sarah Wood said in a release.

They collected fecal samples and nasal swabs, she said, and its two Sumatran tigers and three snow leopards tested positive -- the first cases of COVID-19 among animals at the zoo.

The zoo is treating the animals with steroids and antibiotics to prevent secondary infection and is also following treatment plans that were successful at other zoos.

The zoo hasn’t determined how the animals were infected. It “conducted a thorough investigation of all staff that were in close proximity” to the animals, and pointed out that all of its animal care staff are required to wear masks in its indoor areas.

The cats are expected to recover, she said, and no other animals at the zoo are showing signs of infection.

And the zoo doesn’t think the public was at risk, due to the distance between animals and visitors.

The animals will return to outdoor areas when they’re up to it, Wood said in an email. “Our keepers and vet staff will be managing their access to outdoor habitats based on their health.”

Confirmed cases of COVID among zoo animals have been reported across the country, including gorillas at Zoo Atlanta.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported Wednesday that a snow leopard named Baya died at the Great Plains Zoo last week of a respiratory illness that might have been COVID-19. Test results are pending.

Officials at the South Dakota zoo said Monday that a tiger there tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 6, the day before Baya died.

Some zoos in the country, including in Oakland, San Diego, Denver, Detroit and Atlanta, are testing a vaccine created by Zoetis exclusively for animals.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7254 or psalter@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSPeterSalter

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