Reading Time: 2 minutes Captive lions across the world have contracted COVID-19 in zoos. Credit: Adobe. Do not use without permission.
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Several animals at Rotterdam Zoo in the Netherlands (aka Diergaarde Blijdorp), have tested positive for COVID-19. 

The zoo, which is one of the country’s oldest, reported that “a number” of its gorillas and lions have contracted the virus. In a statement, the company said the animals are experiencing a lowered appetite and cough, and are behaving “listlessly.” 

The gorillas also have stomach and intestinal problems. 

Rotterdam Zoo says it isn’t certain how the animals became infected, and assured that it has been following a “special corona protocol.”

The facility suspects that an asymptomatic employee passed the virus on. The animals have been moved to a more discrete enclosure that cannot be viewed by visitors.

“We are now giving the animals plenty of rest to recover. The zoo keepers and the vet are keeping an extra eye on the gorillas and lions. They support them with medication where necessary,” the zoo said. 

Zoo animals and COVID-19

The Dutch zoo is the latest to report that its animals have contracted the infectious disease, but not the only. 

The first known case of an ape catching COVID-19 was reported in January, when eight gorillas at San Diego Zoo Safari Park caught COVID-19 from a zookeeper. 

Since then, Zoo Atlanta in Georgia, the Bronx Zoo in New York, the San Diego Zoo in California, Denver Zoo in Colorado, and St. Louis Zoo in Missouri, among others, have all reported animals catching the disease. Like Rotterdam Zoo, these facilities have typically chalked the infections up to asymptomatic employees. 

Earlier this month, three snow leopards lost their lives at the Lincoln Children’s Zoo in Nebraska after catching COVID-19.

Tigers, lions, hyenas, and critically endangered western lowland gorillas have all caught the virus, too.

Consequently, a growing number of zoos are now vaccinating their animals with experimental COVID-19 vaccines.

Animal rights organizations have questioned whether these species would be contracting the virus if they were not captive.

Wendy Higgins of Humane Society International/UK spoke to Plant Based News about the matter.

“Zoos are responsible for ensuring the health of the animals under their care, and that must also include protection from diseases that they can catch from their human handlers, including the COVID-19 virus,” she said. “In their natural habitats in the wild, these animals would have extremely limited to zero close contact with humans, and so it is imperative that proper precautions are taken to protect them.”

Jemima Webber

Jemima is a News Writer for Plant Based News. She was previously Senior Editor at LIVEKINDLY, and is currently studying a Bachelor of Psychological Science.