African lions at Birmingham Zoo test positive for COVID-19

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Photo of African Lions Kwanza and Akili taken by Scott Kayser, courtesy of the Birmingham Zoo.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala, (WIAT) — A pair of African lions at the Birmingham Zoo have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

According to a press release sent Friday, caretakers observed a decreased appetite in the male lion, Kwanza, and mild sneezing in Akili, the female lion, last week. Testing of the lions’ fecal samples at an outside laboratory detected the presence of SARS-CoV-2, and the results were confirmed through testing by the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratory.

No other animals at the zoo are showing symptoms of COVID-19, and health and safety protocols remain in place for the lions, whose fecal matter will continue to be collected and tested until there is no longer any virus detected.

Kwanza and Akili are able to access their indoor and outdoor areas, and guests visiting the lion habitat viewing area are not at risk of exposure since there is sufficient distance and protective class between the visitors and animal.

Recently, the Birmingham Zoo received a donation of a SARS-CoV-2 vaccines made specifically for animals by the company Zoetis, and the first round is in the beginning stages of being administered to high-risk animals. The release says the lions will be able to be vaccinated soon, as well.

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