Female Snow Leopard at San Diego Zoo Suspected Positive for Coronavirus

San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

The female snow leopard companion of the previously reported COVID-19 positive male snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo is now suspected positive, the San Diego Wildlife Alliance said.

An in-house SARS-CoV2 PCR test showed a positive result for both snow leopards but SDWA is still waiting on confirmatory results for the female from the National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL). 

Ramil, a male snow leopard living at the San Diego Zoo, tested positive for the coronavirus last Friday.

Wildlife specialists are also paying close attention to two Amur leopards who share the same habitat as the snow leopards, the SDWA said. The zoo assumes those animals have been exposed and they are currently quarantining in their habitat.

"The snow leopards are not showing any concerning signs of illness other than coughs that are diminishing. They are eating and moving about normally," the SDWA said.

Park visitors won't be able to see those animals until further notice.

The zoo isn't sure how Ramil contracted the virus. The facility has biosecurity protocols that were bolstered when the pandemic came along. Right now, unvaccinated employees are required to mask and practice public safety protocols at all times, according to the SDWA. Unvaccinated visitors are asked to do the same.

The female snow leopard received her first vaccine of the COVID-19 vaccine on July 18 and was due to receive her second dose three weeks after her first dose was administered. SDWA said the infection appears to have occurred before the first dose was able to convey immunity.

Ramil wasn't vaccinated, though the zoo has received donations of animal-specific COVID-19 vaccines and is working to administer doses to its most at-risk wildlife, which includes leopards, lions, tigers, cheetahs, jaguars, mountain lions and others, SDWA said.

In January, a gorilla troop tested positive for the coronavirus, contracting it from an asymptomatic wildlife specialist, SDWA said. The troop has since recovered.

"San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance provides the best possible care for the wildlife at its two parks and its conservation projects around the world. As part of this effort, preventive medicine is practiced to protect wildlife, including rare and endangered species, against diseases that may harm them," the SDWA said.

Zoo and Safari Park visitors shouldn't feel at risk from the animals they encounter, according to zoo executive director Dwight Scott.

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