Jupiter – the first animal at the zoo to die from Covid-19 – was just weeks away from its 15th birthday. In the In the wild, Amur tigers like Jupiter typically live 10 to 15 years, but they can live up to 20 years in captivity.
A group of gorillas are being treated for covid. The great apes will soon be getting their shots too, Zoo says.
Jupiter’s care team noted on June 22 that the tiger had lost its appetite and didn’t seem to want to move or interact with its caretakers.
Zoo officials said Jupiter was sedated for an examination, which suggested an infection, and treatment was started. “Unfortunately, Jupiter did not improve with this treatment and remained reluctant to move and eat,” officials said.
Although he appeared stable, he died early Sunday morning.
Tracking coronavirus in animals gains new urgency
Sarah Hamer, a veterinary epidemiologist at Texas A&M University, told The Washington Post that coronavirus diagnosis in animals is rare, in part because animals are rarely tested.
However, there have been anecdotal reports of zoo animals testing positive for the virus. In October, a lion at the National Zoo nearly died after contracting Covid-19, and one at the Honolulu Zoo died. The following month, three snow leopards died at a Nebraska zoo from Covid-19 complications.
To protect themselves against this, dozens of zoos, sanctuaries and conservatories across the United States have vaccinated the wild animals.
Three ‘beloved’ snow leopards in zoo die of covid-19
Over the course of the coronavirus pandemic, Hamer and her team tested pets in Covid-19-positive households to determine how often the pets contract the disease. Of the 600 households in which people had Covid-19, about 25 percent of households had pets that also tested positive for infection and about 25 percent of infected pets were reported by their owners as symptomatic – with lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and, in some cases cough and sneeze. But in all cases, the pets got better without veterinary intervention, she said in a phone interview Thursday.
In infected zoo animals, we ‘usually find out when an animal shows clinical signs: they appear to be sick, so they are tested and the test comes back positive. Then we learn about it’, she says. “But we don’t learn about all the possible times when a zoo animal could be exposed and become infected, but not develop clinical signs, because in that case there would be no reason to test it.”
But Hamer said the research is important for both animal and human health.
Hamer said that in some cases, animals exposed to the coronavirus can become infected and then act as a reservoir or carrier, infect other animals or transmit the virus back to humans.
In a study published this summer in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, researchers in Thailand documented what is believed to be the first case of a domestic cat infecting a human with the virus. The human — a veterinarian — tested positive after being sneezed by an infected cat, according to the researchers. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noted that the risk of animal-to-human transmission is low.
It is not clear exactly how Jupiter contracted the virus. Columbus Zoo officials require employees who work with big cats, apes and mustelids such as otters to wear masks when working closely with these animals, which are more prone to contracting the disease, zoo officials said in the statement. †
Jupiter, an Amur tiger (aka Siberian tiger), was born in July 2007 at the Moscow Zoo. In 2015, he arrived at the Columbus Zoo, where six of the nine cubs he fathered in the past seven years were born, officials said in the statement.
Officials said he will be remembered as “a large and impressive tiger” who loved fishing, sleeping in his cave and playing with cardboard boxes.