Tiger & Lion – Bronx Zoo

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Tiger & Lion Bronx Zoo

Published 20 April 2020 | Updated 28 July 2020

On 5th April it was reported1 that a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. The tiger, along with her sister, two Amur tigers and three African Lions had developed a dry cough. The tiger was tested by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratories who confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2. Public health employees believe the large cats became ill after being exposed to a zoo employee who was actively shedding virus. All of the large cats are expected to recover. No other animals in other areas of the zoo are exhibiting similar clinical signs. USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are monitoring this situation and the OIE will be notified of the finding.

Update [23 April 2020]
On 17 April it was reported2 that one of the three previously reported exposed lions at the zoo was confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 on 15 April. It is likely that the infection was transmitted by an infected human.

Update [28 July 2020]
McAloose, D. et al (2020) From people to Panthera: Natural SARS-CoV-2 infection in tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo bioRxiv 2020.07.22.213959 https://doi.org/10.1101/2020.07.22.213959

This paper provides detailed reports and an epidemiologic investigation into the case series of infections in three lions and four tigers at Bronx Zoo in March 2020. The investigation identified ten zookeepers and two managers who provided care for and had close (but not direct contact) with the animals. Four keepers were tested, having displayed mild respiratory symptoms, and all showed evidence of current or prior SARS-CoV-2 infection. All reported staying at home while sick.

Whole genome sequence and haplotype network analyses showed tigers and lions were infected with two different SARS-CoV-2 strains, suggesting independent viral introductions. The source of SARS- CoV-2 infection in the lions is unknown. Epidemiological data and genetic similarities between keeper and tiger viruses indicate human to animal transmission.


1. AVMA (2020) SARS-CoV-2 in pets [online] Available at: https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/animal-health-and-welfare/covid-19/sars-cov-2-animals-including-pets [Accessed 13 April 2020]

2. OIE (2020) COVID-19 (SARS-COV-2) Information received on 17/4/2020 from USDA-APHIS, United States Department of Agriculture [online] Available at: https://www.oie.int/wahis_2/public/wahid.php/Reviewreport/Review?reportid=34054 [Accessed 18 April 2020]

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