Malena, an 11-year-old Amur tiger at Brookfield Zoo, has tested positive for COVID-19, the zoo announced Friday.
Other big cats at the zoo are now exhibiting symptoms similar to Malena’s — coughing, sneezing, lethargy — and the zoo is awaiting word on tests submitted to the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories. Those results should be available next week, according to the zoo.
Brookfield Zoo began vaccinating animals against COVID-19 in early September. Malena had received her first dose of the Zoetis vaccine, formulated specifically for animals, on Sept. 16 and was slated to receive her second dose next week, the zoo said.
Big cats, along with primates, bears and small carnivores, are known to be more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus, and were among the zoo’s first tier of species to receive vaccines.
“Malena is an older tiger and therefore at an elevated risk. However, she’s in good health and her symptoms have been relatively minor. We are optimistic she will make a full recovery,” said Dr. Mike Adkesson, vice president of clinical medicine for the Chicago Zoological Society, which manages Brookfield Zoo.
The source of the infection is not known, the zoo said. Visitors are required to wear masks inside all zoo buildings and most of the animal care staff is fully vaccinated.
As a precaution, the zoo has closed its Clouded Leopard Rain Forest and Desert’s Edge indoor exhibits until further notice.