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June 17, 2021

A second lion at India’s Valandur zoo died Wednesday after a Covid-19 infection, zoo authorities announced, while 10 other lions continue to be treated for the disease, suggesting that big cats in zoological facilities may be more vulnerable to the coronavirus than previously thought.

 

The 12-year old male lion—named Padmanaban—who had been receiving intensive treatment for days, died at the Valandur Zoo near Chennai on Wednesday morning, according to zoo officials.

The animal had tested positive on June 3 along with several other lions and had been displaying symptoms such as coughing and loss of appetite, the Times of India reported.

As of Thursday, 10 other infected lions at the zoo are receiving treatment from an in-house veterinary team and an expert team from the state’s biggest veterinary university.

Two elderly lionesses—19-year old Bhuavana and 23-year-old Kavitha—who were critically ill last week, have begun to respond to treatments and are now eating properly, zoo officials said.

Earlier this month, a nine-year-old lioness named Neela died at the Valandur Zoo after testing positive for Covid-19. However, test samples of Neela which had been sent to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute also found that she was infected with the far more virulent Canine Distemper Virus (CDV), which may have contributed to her death. According to the News Minute, lions at the zoo had not been vaccinated against CDV. After Neela’s death, zoo officials were instructed by government authorities to vaccinate the animals as soon as possible. According to its 2019-20 report, the Valandur Zoo had 15 “Hybrid Lions” in its collection. Hybrid lions are crossbreeds between the African Lion and the critically endangered Asiatic Lion, which is found only in India. Last month, eight Asiatic lions tested positive for Covid-19 at Nehru Zoological Park in Hyderabad. The critically endangered big cats have since fully recovered from the virus.

Several other big cats in zoos across the world—including lions and tigers—have contracted Covid-19 but most of them seemed to only have mild symptoms. Apart from the two lion deaths at Valandur Zoo, there are no other confirmed instances of a big cat dying from Covid-19. However, a 17-year old tigress living in a Swedish Zoo had to be euthanized after contracting Covid-19—which caused appetite loss, severe respiratory distress and neurologic symptoms in her. It’s unclear if the new, faster-spreading Covid-19 variants pose a bigger threat to these animals.




Source: Forbes