Bay Area Zoos Take Precautions After NY Tiger Tests Positive

Bay Area zoos are taking extra precautions after the surprising news that a tiger tested positive for the novel coronavirus at the Bronx Zoo. 

On top of the normal safety precautions and new social distancing efforts to keep workers from infecting each other, zookeepers are now applying distancing measures to the animals. 

“We’re wearing masks when we’re within six feet of [the tigers],” says Dr. Alex Herman, Director of Veterinary Services at Oakland Zoo. “And for food preparation and any kind of hand feeding, we’re wearing gloves and doing extra hand washing for that too.”

“Really our main focus was protecting our old world primates from catching COVID-19 from us,” says Dr. Herman, who was taken aback by the development in New York. “So now with the news about the cats, we’re just being more proactive and just protecting all of our animals that are in the order of Carnivora. So that’s bears, all of the monkeys old and new world, wolves, ferrets and all of the big cats of course. We have a few different types; we have tigers and lions and mountain lions and jaguars.”

Officials at the San Francisco Zoo say their zookeepers have been using personal protective equipment since early in the epidemic.

Both zoos say no staff members or animals are displaying symptoms but will continue to monitor. 

It’s still not clear how the human-to-cat transmission happened, but the tiger at the Bronx Zoo is expected to make a full recovery.

As for your at home zoo, there is some good news. “There’s no evidence at all that there’s any transmission from us to pets or from pets to us,” says Dr. Herman.