LINCOLN, Nebraska — Three snow leopards at a Nebraska zoo died from COVID-19 complications after testing positive for the virus last month, zoo officials said Friday.
The Lincoln Children's Zoo said in October that its snow leopards and Sumatran tigers had tested positive for COVID-19. According to the zoo's Facebook announcement, veterinarians were treating the big cats with steroids and antibiotics, following procedures set by other zoos whose animals had tested positive.
The Sumatran tigers made a "seemingly full recovery," but the zoo said its three snow leopards died from COVID-19 complications.
"Our leopards, Ranney, Everest, and Makalu, were beloved by our entire community inside and outside of the zoo," read an announcement on the zoo's Facebook page. "This loss is truly heartbreaking, and we are all grieving together."
According to the CDC, COVID-19 cases have been documented in animals including big cats, mink, and household pets. The agency said these cases usually happen after close contact with a person who has COVID-19. The risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is considered low.
The first documented case of COVID-19 in a big cat happened in April 2020 at the Bronx Zoo, where a 4-year-old Malayan tiger named Nadia and several other big cats fell ill. Nadia later tested positive for the virus.
Bronx Zoo officials said the cats likely caught COVID-19 from a zoo employee with an asymptomatic case of the virus. The Lincoln Children's Zoo said it wasn't able to find the exact source of the infection, but that all of its employees wear masks in indoor areas of the zoo.
The Lincoln Children's Zoo said it is remaining open while following CDC and veterinary guidelines.