Three snow leopards have died after contracting Covid-19 at Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska, officials said.
Zoo officials called the deaths “truly heartbreaking”, identifying the three leopards as Ranney, Everest and Makalu in a Facebook post.
Officials had confirmed that the three leopards and two sumatran tigers had tested positive for the virus after showing symptoms last month, following which they were being treated.
“It is with deep sadness that we inform our community that three snow leopards at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo have passed away due to complications of Covid-19,” the zoo said in a Facebook post.
It added: “Our leopards, Ranney, Everest, and Makalu, were beloved by our entire community inside and outside of the zoo. This loss is truly heartbreaking, and we are all grieving together.”
The zoo officials said that the Sumatran tigers — Axl and Kumar — have made a “seemingly full recovery from their illness”.
Officials said that the zoo will remain open to the public and will continue to follow all precautions to avoid the spread of Covid to humans and animals.
“We will continue following the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV) and CDC guidelines to ensure the safety of our animals, staff, and community,” the Facebook post read.
Several zoo lovers responded to the post to mourn the loss of the animals. “We are heartbroken…Everest has been an adopted member of our family since he was born. Sending love for the snow leopards,” said one Facebook user.
“Oh no! They were my favourite and we’d loved seeing their beauty and agility. My deepest sympathies,” said another.
“I am so sorry. This is devastating. Everest arrived the last year I worked at the zoo and I always loved walking past his enclosure. My deepest condolences to the keepers. Rest easy, snow leopards. You’ve earned it,” said another user.
The death of the three leopards comes after zoos across the country, including the St Louis Zoo and the Denver Zoo, have reported Covid-19 infections among animals.
After these big cats had tested positive for the virus, the zoo officials said they had investigated all the staff members close to the animals. All staff members at the care section were required to wear masks indoors. No other animals had shown signs of infections in October, officials said.