Snow Leopard at San Diego Zoo Tests Positive for Coronavirus

San Diego Zoo Global

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

Wildlife care specialists were tipped off by the Ramil's cough and nasal discharge on Thursday, and further tests exposed the virus in the leopard.

For now, Ramil is a suspected positive case until his multiple positive tests are confirmed by the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratories.

"The male snow leopard appears to be doing well, and is showing no additional symptoms other than the cough and runny nose," the SDWA said.

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.

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.

Wildlife specialists are also paying close attention to a female snow leopard and two Amur leopards who share the same habitat as Ramil, the SDWA said. The zoo assumes those animals have been exposed and they are currently quarantining in their habitat. Park visitors won't be able to see those animals until further notice.

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