Snow leopard at San Diego Zoo tests positive for COVID-19

A snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo has tested positive for COVID-19 — forcing the zoo to temporarily shut down its leopard habitat to visitors, officials said Friday.

Zoo staff first noticed that Ramil, a 9-year-old male snow leopard, had a cough and a runny nose on Thursday, and sent the animal’s stool to be tested, according to a statement from the San Diego Wildlife Alliance.

The California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System confirmed the presence of the virus, the organization said.

The zoo is waiting for the US Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories to also confirm the results.

It is not yet clear how the leopard contracted the virus.

The zoo said that it is closely monitoring Ramil’s health. The animal “appears to be doing well,” and has been quarantined, along with a female snow leopard and two Amur leopards who share a space and were also likely exposed.

Officials said the exhibit would be closed to visitors until further notice.

“While we await the results of tests to determine if the snow leopard is positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, we can assure you the snow leopard and the Amur leopards who share his habitat are receiving excellent care,” said Dwight Scott, the zoo’s executive director, in a statement.

Ramil the snow leopard at San Diego Zoo
The zoo is not yet sure how Ramil may have contracted COVID-19.
San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

“Our veterinary teams and wildlife care specialists at both the Zoo and Safari Park are highly skilled, dedicated professionals who work tirelessly to ensure the well-being of the wildlife in our care.”

The zoo said it had received a donation of “recombinant purified spike protein vaccine” for the animals that protects them against COVID-19. 

The snow leopard had not received the vaccine, the zoo said.

According to the zoo, the gorilla troop that caught COVID-19 from an asymptomatic wildlife care specialist in January has fully recovered.

San diego zoo entrance
The snow leopard was suffering from a cough and a runny nose.
Alamy Stock Photo

Huynh Nguyen

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