Story at a glance

  • Zoo officials last week noticed the animal was experiencing a cough and runny nose.
  • Two separate tests of his stool confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the zoo said in a statement on Friday.
  • The snow leopard has exhibited no other symptoms and appears to be doing well, according to zoo officials.

A rare male snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo has tested positive for the coronavirus, prompting the closure of the animals’ habitat to zoo visitors until further notice. 

Zoo officials last week noticed the animal was experiencing a cough and runny nose. Two separate tests of his stool confirmed the presence of SARS-CoV-2, the zoo said in a statement on Friday. 

The snow leopard has exhibited no other symptoms and appears to be doing well, according to zoo officials. 

A female snow leopard and two Amur leopards who share the habitat are in quarantine due to the assumed exposure. 

“We can assure you the snow leopard and the Amur leopards who share his habitat are receiving excellent care,” Dwight Scott, the zoo’s executive director, said in a release. 

The zoo earlier this year began vaccinating animals with an experimental vaccine developed by veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis, which is intended strictly for nonhuman use. 


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In January, a group of eight gorillas at the zoo’s sister facility contracted the virus from a wildlife care specialist who was asymptomatic. All the gorillas have since fully recovered. It’s believed to be the first known cases of COVID-19 among primates other than humans. 

While the zoo said it was administering the vaccine doses as quickly and responsibly as possible, the male snow leopard had yet to get the vaccine. It’s unclear how the big cat became infected, but the zoo said it has security measures in place to keep animals safe, such as the use of personal protective equipment, masks and cleaning and disinfection protocols. 

There’s an estimated 4,000 to 6,600 snow leopards left in the wild, according to the World Wildlife Fund


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Published on Jul 26, 2021