The African lions at the Akron Zoo have received presumptive positive test results for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The Akron Zoo is home to five lions – males Tamarr and Donovan and females Mandisa, Kataba and Msinga.
The lion care team recently noticed some mild coughing, sneezing and decreased appetite in a few of the lions. After the onset of symptoms, fecal samples were collected and sent to the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Reynoldsburg, Ohio, where the lions tested presumptive positive. The positive samples will now be sent to a National Veterinary Services Lab for further testing.
Out of an abundance of caution, the Akron Zoo also sent fecal samples for testing of all their big cats, including the Sumatran tigers, snow leopards and jaguar. These samples tested negative, however staff will continue to closely monitor them for any clinical signs of COVID-19.
The lions will remain in their habitat in the zoo’s Pride of Africa area, where they will be treated for any symptoms as indicated for each animal.
The lions do not pose a transmission threat to zoo visitors. There is currently no data showing that zoo animals have transmitted the virus to humans, unlike the documented transmission of humans to animals. Additionally, the zoo’s habitat design and use of glass throughout the park protects the animals and guests from exposure to each other while in their habitats.
The use of PPE and safety protocols were already required in all animal care areas. Exposure is believed to be from a staff member who later tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the zoo will be further enhancing PPE in animal care areas.
The Akron Zoo has been authorized to use the Zoetis COVID-19 investigational vaccine developed uniquely for animals. Other zoos throughout North America have begun administering the vaccine to its vulnerable animals. The vaccine very recently arrived at the Akron Zoo, and plans are underway to vaccinate susceptible animals. The lions will be included in vaccinations, upon their recovery. Use of the COVID-19 vaccine from Zoetis has been authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ohio state veterinarian.