A rare snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo that hadn’t been vaccinated has tested positive for coronavirus. But the zoo is continuing to roll out shots to protect other animals.
Last Thursday, wildlife care specialists noticed the snow leopard had a cough and nasal discharge, the zoo said in new release. Preliminary tests confirmed the virus that causes Covid-19.
The zoo said it doesn’t know how the snow leopard got infected. According to the Snow Leopard Trust, there may be only about 4,000 to 6,000 snow leopards left in the world.
In January, the zoo started vaccinating its animals with donated recombinant purified spike protein vaccines, which are not intended for human use. The zoo vaccinated several great apes after the zoo’s gorillas tested positive for the virus. The gorillas fully recovered.
Veterinary teams at the zoo are focusing on wildlife most at risk of contracting the virus, including leopards, lions, tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, mountain lions and others, according to the zoo’s news release.
The snow leopard appears to be doing well and is showing no addition symptoms, the zoo said.
The snow leopard shares his habitat with a female snow leopard and two Amur leopards. Those animals are being quarantined and monitored closely.
This isn’t the first time a snow leopard tested positive in the US. In December, three snow leopards at the Louisville Zoo were confirmed to be infected with the virus. Those leopards showed mild symptoms and were believed to have been infected by an asymptomatic staff member.
Testing at the zoo and at the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System confirmed the positive test of the San Diego Zoo’s snow leopard. Results are still pending from the US Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories.