Bronx Zoo Tiger is Diagnosed with COVID-19


Amy Liu, Staff Writer

On Monday, a tiger at the Bronx Zoo tested positive for COVID-19, marking an instance of what officials believe to be human-to-animal transmission. While there have been some reported cases of human-to-animal infection throughout the pandemic, this is the first case of a tiger being infected with COVID-19.

The four-year-old Malayan tiger, named Nadia, lives in the Bronx Zoo’s Tiger Mountain enclosure. Several other lions and tigers are also exhibiting symptoms of the respiratory illness, though none of the other animals have been tested due to the potential dangers of the procedure, which requires general anesthesia. All of the affected animals are expected to recover.

While zoos across the country have been closed to the public, following social distancing and lockdown guidelines, they cannot fully shut down. According to the New York Times, around 300 workers report to the zoo on alternating shifts to take care of the animals living there. Public health officials believe that an asymptomatic zookeeper was the likely source of the COVID-19 transmission to the tigers. 

Although the zookeepers and big cats at the Bronx Zoo are generally separated by a barrier, they may come in somewhat close contact during feeding and enrichment. Additionally, there have been other cases of cats contracting coronavirus in affected nations from China to Belgium. Several studies have been published with data that indicates the possibility of cats contracting coronavirus, though none are peer-reviewed yet and officials stress that the few animals that have been infected have very rare and mild cases.

Public health officials are also emphasizing that there is no evidence that domestic animals can pass the virus back to people and that reported cases of human-to-animal transmission of COVID-19 is still largely anecdotal. However, the US Agriculture Department advises that people take the same precautions with their pets as they would with family.