Science

Endangered snow leopards that caught COVID-19 at San Diego zoo showing signs of improvement 

Pair of endangered snow leopards that caught COVID-19 at San Diego zoo last month are showing signs of improvement

  • The two snow leopards that tested positive for COVID-19 at the San Diego Zoo last month are recovering 
  • The leopards’ coughs are diminishing and they don’t show other signs
  • Three-year-old Naphisa and 9-year-old Ramil tested positive late in July 
  • It’s unclear how the two big cats contracted the virus 
  • There are an estimated 4,080-6,590 snow leopards in the wild 

The two endangered snow leopards that tested positive for COVID-19 at the San Diego Zoo a week and a half ago are recovering, officials said in an update. 

‘The male and female snow leopards, suspected to have contracted the virus that causes COVID-19, are not showing any concerning signs of illness other than coughs that are diminishing,’ a San Diego Zoo spokesperson told DailyMail.com on Monday. ‘They are eating and moving about normally.’

Three-year-old Naphisa and 9-year-old Ramil tested positive late in July after experts at the zoo tested stool samples for both mammals, according to the San Diego Tribune. 

Naphisa first showed symptoms the week of July 23, according to the zoo’s Twitter account. A few days later, Ramil also began to show symptoms.

The two snow leopards that tested positive for COVID-19 at the San Diego Zoo last month are recovering. The leopards' coughs are diminishing and they don't show other signs, officials told DailyMail.com

The two snow leopards that tested positive for COVID-19 at the San Diego Zoo last month are recovering. The leopards’ coughs are diminishing and they don’t show other signs, officials told DailyMail.com

Three-year-old Naphisa and 9-year-old Ramil tested positive late in July. It's unclear how the two big cats contracted the virus

Three-year-old Naphisa and 9-year-old Ramil tested positive late in July. It’s unclear how the two big cats contracted the virus

The two Amur leopards that share the enclosure with the snow leopards have not shown any sign of illness. 

‘Our dedicated team of specialists will continue to provide all four leopards the best care available – monitoring them closely and treating symptoms as they may arise,’ the spokesperson added. 

It’s unclear at this time how the two big cats contracted the virus, but the Tribune noted that other animals at the zoo have been infected.

In January, a gorilla troop became infected after they were exposed to a keeper who was also infected, but did not show symptoms. The gorillas have since recovered, the outlet added. 

The snow leopards are the only two at the zoo, which has had the animals in its care since the first arrived in 1949. Thirteen cubs have been born at the park since then

The snow leopards are the only two at the zoo, which has had the animals in its care since the first arrived in 1949. Thirteen cubs have been born at the park since then

The snow leopards are the only two at the zoo.

The zoo has kept snow leopards since 1949, and thirteen cubs have been born at the park since then.

There are an estimated 4,080-6,590 snow leopards – and 90 Amur leopards- in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund, but exact numbers are hard to come by because of the cats’ remote habitat and natural shyness.

Snow leopards are listed as ‘vulnerable’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, with poachers hunting them for their fur and mining in high mountain ranges meaning increased competition for space and food. 

Scent sprays are added to boulders, logs, and ground cover in their rocky enclosure, and bones and other food items are placed in challenging areas, to encourage exercise and mental stimulation.


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