DENVER — Two Denver Zoo Amur tigers have tested positive for COVID-19, according to zoo officials.
Animal care staff recently observed the two 11-year-old tigers, Yuri and Nikita, experiencing coughing, sneezing, lethargy and nasal discharge.
The animals were tested and samples came back positive from the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Fort Collins. The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the positive results.
Yuri and Nikita appear to be improving at this time.
“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,” said Brian Aucone, senior vice president for life sciences at the Denver Zoo.
Yuri and Nikita will remain under close observation by their keepers and veterinarians. There is no risk to public health due to the distance between guests and the animals.
The tigers are not vaccinated for COVID-19, but the zoo plans to vaccinate them and other big cat species as soon as more doses of the animal-specific Zoetis vaccine become available.
The tigers are the first animals at the Denver Zoo to test positive for COVID-19. No other animals are showing symptoms.
The zoo said it has had several protective measures in place, including use of personal protective equipment, hygiene, cleaning, employee self-screening and health management. In 2020, it also installed protective barriers around the tigers’ habitat to ensure safe distancing between guests and the animals.