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Indianapolis Zoo's African lions test positive for Delta variant of COVID-19

Carla Knapp/Indianapolis Zoo

Three African lions at the Indianapolis Zoo are recovering after testing positive for the Delta variant of COVID-19 last week.

The zoo said the lions were tested when the two females, Zuri and Sukari, presented with respiratory and digestive symptoms. The male, Enzi, has been asymptomatic. The lions were taken off exhibit and started on treatment immediately. According to the zoo, the two young lions are doing well. The older female, Zuri, is being treated for respiratory symptoms.

It is unclear as to how the lions caught the virus. The zoo said all staff are vaccinated and no staff working in proximity to the cats were sick or showed signs of the virus. It said staff working directly with the lions follow detailed safety protocols including wearing masks, gloves and following strict hygiene practices. COVID tests for those staff members were all negative.

The zoo said veterinarians have administered the first dose of the COVID vaccine to dozens of the most susceptible animals including lions, tigers, cheetahs and apes – some have received the second dose. The lions received their first dose over two weeks ago, which likely mitigated the severity of their symptoms.

The zoo is using a vaccine created for animals by Zoetis, a U.S. veterinary pharmaceutical company, which donated the shots. Use of the vaccine was authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Indiana’s State Veterinarian. The zoo said so far none of the animals have had an adverse reaction to the vaccine and there have been no other animal cases of COVID-19.