A snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo has COVID … and zoo officials are worried about an outbreak among the cats.
A 9-year-old snow leopard named Ramil caught the attention of zoo staff Thursday, after noticing the cat had a cough and runny nose. The COVID test came back positive, confirmed by 2 labs.
They’re doing another test, but the staff expects the result to be the same — positive.
Here’s the problem … Ramil shared an enclosure with 3 other cats — a female snow leopard and 2 Amur leopards, all of which have been exposed to COVID. So, the 3 big cats are in quarantine now, although real talk — they’re always in quarantine. In this case it means the public won’t be able to go near.
Fortunately, Ramil’s symptoms haven’t gotten worse. Zoo staff is mystified as to how the cat caught the virus. Zoo keepers must wear masks if they’re not vaccinated. Eight gorillas caught COVID in January, though none were symptomatic.
Scientists have known for months that cats can contract COVID. Most cases are not serious, but snow leopards are fast dwindling in population. Estimates put the number of wild snow leopards at 4,000 to 6,500.
The Zoo has actually tried an experimental vaccine manufactured by Zoetis, an animal health company that in the past was a division of Pfizer. Ramil was not vaccinated.