GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — John Ball Zoo’s 16-year-old female Amur tiger has tested positive for COVID-19.
Zoo officials say the tiger, Nika, is currently recovering, according to a news release Monday.
“We continue to take the health and well-being of our team, guests and animals seriously as we have before and during this COVID pandemic,” said Peter D’Arienzo, CEO of John Ball Zoo. “As with all of the zoo’s animals, Nika continues to receive exceptional care from her keeper and veterinary teams and they are cautiously optimistic on her complete recovery.”
As seen with other zoos, John Ball Zoo suspects Nika’s exposure to the virus likely came from a pre-symptomatic, positive member of the animal care team.
“Even with increased safety protocols in place for the care of the zoo’s animals, we know that just as with humans, the spreading of COVID can occur even among those who are vaccinated and practicing safe habits and protocols,” D’Arienzo said.
“The animal care and veterinary teams have been diligent with our use of PPE and other safety protocols in all animal spaces, in particular, our felid, primate, and small carnivore species, but we also know that no system is perfect in preventing a highly contagious virus,” said Dr. Ryan Colburn, John Ball Zoo’s veterinarian.
In addition to John Ball Zoo’s tigers, the chimpanzees, lions, snow leopards and small carnivores are either completely vaccinated or scheduled to receive their second vaccination against COVID-19.
Colburn says Nika was due for her second dose of the vaccine on the day she became sick.
There haven’t been any clinical signs of COVID-19 from any of the other zoo cats or other animals.
However, out of an abundance of caution, John Ball Zoo plans to run additional testing of the other two Amur tigers to determine if they are shedding the virus.