TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – A tiger in the Bronx Zoo in New York tested positive for COVID-19, the first tiger to be infected with the virus according to the federal Agriculture Department.
Public health officials believe the tiger was infected by a zoo employee, which is pushing officials at the Topeka Zoo to increase safety measures.
Zoo Director Brendan Wiley said he was surprised by the tiger case in New York. There is a lot we still don’t know about COVID-19, but Wiley said they suspect many animals can contract the virus.
“Animals like great apes, elephants, other non-human primates, even river otters and ferrets, Wiley said. “We’re wearing gloves, we’re wearing masks when we’re anywhere near those animals.”
Wiley said they’re now putting those same safety measures in place around tigers, lions and other big cats. He said employees are also wearing gloves and masks while preparing food for the animals and cleaning their habitats.
“We try to help our staff understand, are you trying to prevent from getting the virus or are you trying to prevent yourself from potentially giving the virus to another person or to an animal,” Wiley said. “Here at the Topeka Zoo we’re really focusing on the latter of those two examples.”
Masks and gloves have become hard to come by as the pandemic has continued. Thankfully, Wiley said the Topeka Zoo had a decent stock before the pandemic. He said zoo volunteers have also started making washable, cloth masks that employees can wear as well.
The Topeka Zoo, along with all city buildings, closed on March 20 due to concerns around the Coronavirus. There is no word on when the zoo will re-open.