Malayan tiger becomes first animal in the US to be infected with coronavirus

In a statement released by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) on April 5, 2020, a Malayan tiger by the name of ‘Nadia’ at the Bronx Zoo in New York City has become the first animal in the U.S. to test positive for the coronavirus.

“Nadia, a 4-year-old female Malayan tiger at the Bronx Zoo, has tested positive for COVID-19. She, her sister Azul, two Amur tigers, and three African lions had developed a dry cough and all are expected to recover,” the statement reads.

She was diagnosed positive for the coronavirus by the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Veterinary Services Laboratory.

Nadia may be the first tiger in the world to test positive for the coronavirus.

A report by Reuters revealed that Nadia may be the first tiger in the world to test positive for the virus, according to Paul Calle, chief veterinarian of the Bronx Zoo.

“It’s the first time, to our knowledge, that a [wild] animal has gotten sick from COVID-19 from a person,” says Calle, adding that Nadia likely contracted the coronavirus from an infected, but asymptomatic zookeeper.

An undated photo of Nadia at the Bronx Zoo. IMAGE: WCS

Nadia, along with a handful of other big cats at the Bronx Zoo, started developing dry coughs. Aside from a decrease in appetite, “the cats at the Bronx Zoo are otherwise doing well under veterinary care and are bright, alert, and interactive with their keepers,” said the WCS.

The 4 affected cats are currently housed in the zoo’s Tiger Mountain exhibit. The WCS notes that a male Amur tiger who also lives in the Tiger Mountain exhibit did not display any clinical symptoms of the virus. The same applies to another Malayan Tiger and 2 Amur tigers housed in the zoo’s Wild Asia exhibit.

The Malayan tiger is one of the smallest tigers in the world.

According to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the tiger is native to the Malaysian states of Pahang, Perak, Kelantan, and Terengganu. The Malayan tiger had an estimated population of 3,000 in the 1950s, but this figure has since tanked to a worrying 250 to 340 individual cats today.

IMAGE: Shariff Mohamad / WWF Malaysia

Along with deforestation and habitat loss, the most immediate threat to the Malayan tiger’s existence is poaching and illegal wildlife trade, which has significantly contributed to the species’ population decline.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has categorized the Malayan tiger in their Red List as critically endangered. Malaysia’s Wildlife Conservation Act (2010) also lists the Malayan Tiger as a ‘Totally Protected Species.’

Zoos are heavily-impacted by the coronavirus pandemic by loss of public and private funding, ticket sales, and other monetary means.

You can help keep the animals in Malaysia’s 57-year-old National Zoo fed by donating here.

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Cover image sourced from Bronx Zoo / Facebook.