AKRON, Ohio — The Akron Zoo announced its African lions tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, but assured guests that it poses no threat to humans as no cases of transmission from zoo animals to humans have been documented.
There are five African lions at the Akron Zoo—males Tamarr and Donovan and females Mandisa, Kataba and Msinga. The lion care had recently noticed a few of the lions were exhibiting mild coughing, sneezing and a decreased appetite, so fecal samples were collected and sent to the Ohio Department of Agriculture's Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory.
After testing the samples, the results came back as presumptive positive for SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19.
The lions will remain in their habitat in Akron Zoo's Pride of Africa and will be treated for any symptoms they might have.
Other big cats at the zoo were tested, including the tigers, snow leopards and the jaguar, and all samples returned negative results. The zoo said they will continue monitoring the other big cats for any signs of illness as a precaution.
Akron Zoo said that the lions don't pose a threat of transmission to zoo guests both because no data exists showing any transmission from a zoo animal to a human, unlike the documented transmission from a human to an animal, and because the habitat design and use of glass protects the animals and guests from exposure from each other.
The zoo had already required the use of personal protection equipment in all animal care areas, but the lions are believed to have been exposed to the virus by a staff member who later tested positive for COVID-19. Due to that belief, the zoo is increasing PPE protocols in the animal care areas.
Like other zoos across North America, Akron Zoo has been authorized to use the Zoetis COVID-19 vaccine developed for animals specifically. The vaccine recently arrived at the Akron Zoo and there are plans to begin administering the shot to susceptible animals, including the lions after their recovery.
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