Breaking News

Kemp signs Georgia ‘police protections’ measure into law

X

Zoo Atlanta takes steps to protect tigers from COVID-19

Chelsea, a Sumatran tiger, and her mate Sparky, are both healthy, and the staff at Zoo Atlanta aim to keep it that way. CONTRIBUTED: ZOO ATLANTA
Chelsea, a Sumatran tiger, and her mate Sparky, are both healthy, and the staff at Zoo Atlanta aim to keep it that way. CONTRIBUTED: ZOO ATLANTA

The discovery that Nadia, a Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo in New York, tested positive for the coronavirus put other zoological gardens on alert.

Zoo Atlanta, home to the Sumatran tigers Sparky and Chelsea, has begun safeguarding the animals’ health with the use of personal protective equipment by members of the staff.

“We have always used PPE with our primates, now we have started using it with our cats,” said Dr. Hayley Murphy, deputy director at Zoo Atlanta.

Animal care staff interacting with the tigers, lions and the cloud leopard at the zoo, began using face shields and masks last weekend, said Murphy.

The 85 members of the Zoo Atlanta staff also wear masks and gloves to avoid any possible human-t-human transmission.

The big cats at the zoo are all in good shape, said Murphy, and none exhibit signs of the disease. They include the African lions Hondo, Azizi and Hatari and a cloud leopard named Suhana.

The New York Times reported that the tiger in the Bronx Zoo showed respiratory distress March 27, and that several other lions and tigers exhibited signs of the disease.

“Public health officials believe that the large cats caught Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, from a zoo employee,” the Times reported.

Sparky, a Sumatran tiger at Zoo Atlanta, is 15, just one year younger than his mate Chelsea. The two represent two of the last remaining Sumatran tigers in existence, and Zoo Atlanta hopes that they will mate some time in the future. CONTRIBUTED: ZOO ATLANTA
Sparky, a Sumatran tiger at Zoo Atlanta, is 15, just one year younger than his mate Chelsea. The two represent two of the last remaining Sumatran tigers in existence, and Zoo Atlanta hopes that they will mate some time in the future. CONTRIBUTED: ZOO ATLANTA

It is believed to be the first case of “human-to-cat” transmission.

The prospect of the disease jumping between species was cause for alarm. But Murphy said, “when people worried about their own pets, they need to take into account that no other animal in U.S. has been diagnosed with COVID-19. This was a first.”

Nonetheless, said Murphy, anyone who believes they’ve been exposed to the coronavirus should quarantine themselves, and stay separate from their household pets as well as from their human family members, just to be on the safe side.

Like most other attractions in Atlanta, Zoo Atlanta is closed to visitors, though it remains bustling with animal care professionals tending to the 1,000 creatures that live there.

Murphy said this time period has become a good opportunity to provide extra enrichment for the animals at the zoo. They've also expanded an online teaching curriculum, "to help out parents who are entering homeschooling when they didn't think they would be. This is a challenge for everybody."