A Tiger in New York Tests Positive for Covid-19
Sat, December 3, 2022

A Tiger in New York Tests Positive for Covid-19


A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York, USA has tested positive for Covid-19./ Photo by superoke via Shutterstock


A tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York, USA has tested positive for Covid-19, the first known case of a non-domesticated animal with novel coronavirus symptoms in the world. This is according to National Geographic, citing the US Department of Agriculture.

Bronx Zoo’s chief veterinarian Paul Calle said it is the first time to their knowledge that a wild animal has gotten sick from the Covid-19 from a person.

The four-year-old female Malayan tiger named Nadia was tested out of caution after several tigers and lions in the zoo showed signs of respiratory illness. The zoo shared that Nadia, her sister Azul, three African lions, and two Amur tigers had a dry cough. Other animals were not tested since the animals have to be put under general anesthesia to be tested.


How the big cat contracted the virus

An asymptomatic zookeeper, whose name was not revealed, is believed to have spread the coronavirus to the big cat. The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), which manages Bronx Zoo, said that they have now put in place measures to protect the animals from infection. The zoo has been temporarily closed since March 16. The WCS added that they make sure that any knowledge they gain from testing Nadia will contribute to the understanding of the virus.

Aside from experiencing a decrease in their appetite, other tigers are doing well, are alert, and remain interactive with their zookeepers. As of now, it is not known how the disease will develop in tigers because different species react differently to the novel virus. However, authorities said that they will be closely monitoring the animals closely and expect their full recoveries.

Calle said that when Nadia showed symptoms, the veterinary group sedated the tiger and conducted blood work and diagnostic tests. They then sent the samples to the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and Cornell University’s New York State Diagnostic Laboratory.

All of the tigers are staying at the Tiger Mountain exhibit of Bronx Zoo. WCS said that a male Amur tiger in the same exhibit did not show the same symptoms as others.


Zookeepers in the US are protecting great apes within their care as the primates can easily catch respiratory illnesses from humans. / Photo by kaman985shu via Shutterstock


Zookeepers in the US are protecting great apes within their care as the primates can easily catch respiratory illnesses from humans. Leading scientists in the country have warned that orangutans, gorillas, and chimpanzees share about 98% of human DNA. So far, no great apes have yet been reported to have contracted the virus so its true impact is not yet known.

The USDA has previously advised people with Covid-19 to keep away from animals, even their pets, while they have not yet fully recovered.

The Covid-19 is believed to have been transmitted from an animal to humans. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that they do not have evidence that companion animals can spread Covid-19 and further studies are still needed to understand how different animals may be affected by the virus. This is contrary to Hong Kong reports, which warned people to avoid kissing their pets after a dog repeatedly tested a “weak positive” for the coronavirus in early March. This means that the dog had a “low-level” infection but it was likely a human to animal transmission because its owner was infected with Covid-19. The Pomeranian itself, though, is not showing any symptoms.

Medical experts have been investigating to confirm it. HK’s department of agriculture has also said that pet owners need not be overly concerned. On March 19, Hong Kong’s animal welfare authority also confirmed a second dog infected by a coronavirus. The German shepherd was owned by a Covid-19 patient. The German shepherd was sent to quarantine at a government facility. Nasal and oral swabs were taken from the dog. They returned with a positive reading.



Tigers and the economy

The tiger is an animal that plays an important role in the diversity and health of an ecosystem. It maintains the balance between herbivores and prey and the vegetation which they feed. In a study titled "Tigers of the World" published in journal Science Direct, independent conservation economist Michael‘t Sas-Rolfes said, “Economics is concerned with studying the decisions that humans make when choosing how to allocate scarce resources between various competing for human wants and needs.” Most Western conservationists support conventional approaches when it comes to tiger conservation but such coverage often favors the side that opposes farming. Most of these are “ignorant” and “misinformed” of the exact nature of the threat posed by trade.



Tiger poaching statistics

Wildlife trade specialist Traffic shared that there were 92 illegally trafficked tigers (both live and dead) in 2000. This increased to 125 illegally trafficked tigers in 2001. In 2002, there were 56 seized tigers in the world, and so on: 2003 (84), 2004 (77), 2005 (122), 2006 (96), 2007 (77), 2008 (198), 2009 (262), 2010 (123), 2011 (97), 20012 (187), 2013 (101), 2014 (104), 2015 (85), 2016 (288), 2017 (86), and 2018 (101). The trafficking was evidenced by the continuously high number of whole skins, bones, and whole animals both dead and alive. Most poaching was recorded in India. The spike was associate with the demand of the animal in China, where the animal’s skins and bones are considered as exotic luxury items. Chief among the motivations why tigers are poached is that their pelts are used as high-end décor. Others consume the tiger skeleton as “bone strengthening wine.”

The Wildlife Protection Society of India also shares there were 26 documented poached tigers in India in 2015, 50 in 2016, 34 in 2018, and 38 in 2019.

Conservation organization Panthera’s chief scientist John Goodrich said that big cats are already facing a series of threats to their survival. If they also have to deal with coronavirus disease, it could become a serious concern for these species.

The extinction of the predator shows that its ecosystem may not exist long or that it is not sufficiently taken care of. Saving the animal is also beneficial to people as forests provide us with ecological services, such as temperature regulation, pollination, water, and clean air. Their extinction would also mean a collapse in the ecosystem.