Coronavirus was detected in the recently deceased Asian lion at Tallinn Zoo
Juna, the elderly male Asian lion, who was euthanised at the zoo on Wednesday, January 13 due to severe kidney failure, was tested positive for COVID.
Asian lion Juna was diagnosed with kidney failure at a health check in 2020, which resulted in his poor health. In the first weeks of January this year, his condition deteriorated remarkably, leaving veterinarians with no hope for recovery. To prevent increasing pain and further suffering, the lion was put to sleep. In addition to renal insufficiency, the animal also showed symptoms of upper respiratory tract disease. Because cats are known to be susceptible to coronavirus, post-mortem COVID tests were performed on the lion. The results of the tests surprisingly confirmed that Juna was infected with the coronavirus.
Coronavirus and antibody testing was immediately performed on all personnel who had directly or indirectly been exposed to the lion’s den. So far, the results received for 13 tests were negative for both infection and antibodies. The results of two more employee tests are still expected.
According to Tiit Maran, the director of Tallinn Zoo, it is not clear at the moment how the lion was infected. “Stricter hygiene and sanitation requirements have been applied to potentially infected animals. The probability of a false positive test is non-existent because three independent tests were taken from the lion. We are working to find out the source of the infection.” said Maran.
Despite the fact that other animals have shown no symptoms of coronavirus, the zoo will start random testing on potentially infected animals.
Animals infected with the coronavirus have also been reported in other zoos. For example, tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo in New York, cougars in South Africa, tigers at Knoxwille Zoo, snow leopards at Louisville Zoo, gorillas at California Zoo, lions at Barcelona Zoo.
After the initial jump from the original host of the virus to humans, the only proven transmission of the infection from animal back to humans has been in mink fur farms. There are no confirmed cases of transmission of the disease from pets, including domestic cats, to humans.