A lioness at an Indian zoo is suspected of dying of COVID -19 as eight others have also tested positive for the virus. The nine-year-old lioness died at Vandalur Zoo, also known as the Arignar Anna Zoological Park, near the city of Chennai in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu on 3rd June.
According to a zoo statement, Neela the lioness was asymptomatic and “showed some nasal discharge the day before and was symptomatically treated immediately”.
Samples from 11 lions were sent for analysis after five in Animal House 1 in the zoo showed signs of appetite loss and symptoms of COVID -19, including occasional coughing, at the end of May. A zoo statement read: “As per the laboratory test results furnished by the Institute, samples in respect of nine lions of the 11 sent have tested positive for SARS COV-2.”
Nasal and rectal swabs and faecal samples from the nine lions were sent for further tests. Neela died in the meantime, and the zoo said that the other affected lions are being treated in-house by their veterinary team and experts of the Tamil Nadu Veterinary and Animal Sciences University.
Officials added that the sample of the zoo’s only pregnant lioness would not be sent for now as sedating her could weaken her immunity.
The zoo said that samples from the dead lioness have been resent to rule out a false positive report and “ascertain whether or not the reported findings are in the nature of false positives or the animal could have died of comorbidities”.
The infections happened a month after eight Asiatic lions tested positive for COVID -19 at Nehru Zoological Park in the city of Hyderabad.