A snow leopard at a zoo in the US has become the first of its species to test positive for COVID-19.
Neecee, Kimti and Meru at Louisville Zoo in Kentucky all experienced COVID-19-like symptoms, including a “dry cough” and a “wheeze”, despite staff taking precautions around them.
Samples were sent to vets for tests, which returned a positive coronavirus result for Neecee. The zoo is awaiting results for the other two.
Rather than anesthetising the leopards to get a throat and nose swab, vets used their faeces in the testing process.
In a video, director of Louisville Zoo John Wakczak said that their symptoms are “very mild”, adding that “all three snow leopards are expected to recover.”
The zoo believes the cats contracted the disease from an asymptomatic staff member. Zookeepers all wear PPE and have a health screening at the beginning of each shift.
Neecee, Kimti and Meru will all now be “off exhibit” and monitored by staff. They will then be re-tested to check they are clear of COVID-19.
The zoo said it will not be rolling out more testing across the venue, adding that all tests have to be approved by the state and public health veterinarians.
Although Neecee is the first snow leopard to catch COVID-19, she is not the first big cat.
Four lions tested positive for COVID-19 at a Barcelona zoo earlier this week, while four tigers and three lions at Bronx Zoo in New York caught the disease in April.