4 lions at Night Safari have COVID after exposure to infected staff: AVS

·Editorial team
·3-min read
Asiatic lions at the Night Safari. (PHOTO: Mandai Wildlife Group)
Asiatic lions at the Night Safari. (PHOTO: Mandai Wildlife Group)

SINGAPORE — Four lions at the Night Safari have tested positive for COVID-19, following exposure to infected staff members of the attraction.

It was the first time that any animal at the Mandai Wildlife Group's four wildlife parks was confirmed to be infected with the disease.

In a press release on Tuesday (9 November), the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS) said the four Asiatic lions at the Night Safari had exhibited mild signs of sickness including coughing, sneezing, and lethargy on Saturday.

One African lion at the Singapore Zoo had also shown similar respiratory symptoms on Monday.

This was upon exposure to staff from Mandai Wildlife Group who tested positive for the coronavirus disease, added the AVS.

The AVS, a cluster of the National Parks Board (NParks), said it tested samples for the four Asiatic lions via the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) method.

The samples have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Testing is ongoing for the African lion.

The AVS has issued an order under the Animals and Birds Act to the Mandai Wildlife Group to isolate all nine Asiatic lions and five African lions in their respective dens.

This includes the four Asiatic lions and the African lion that have displayed symptoms.

The AVS noted it is working with the group to closely monitor the health of the lions and will be testing samples from the remaining lions.

The Asiatic lion exhibit along the tram route at the Night Safari has been closed since Sunday, said Dr Sonja Luz, vice president of conservation, research, and veterinary at the Mandai Wildlife Group.

Since then, the lions there have been isolated at the back of house and have remained under close observation by the animal care and veterinary teams, she added.

The African lion exhibit at the Singapore Zoo has also been similarly closed.

"The animal care teams are keeping a close watch on all higher-risk species under their care. No other animals across the four wildlife parks currently present clinical signs of the virus," said Dr Luz.

The lions remain "bright, alert and are eating well", she added, noting that evidence shows that animals generally do not fall seriously ill from the virus.

"We expect that the lions will make full recovery with minor supportive treatment. However, anti-inflammatories and antibiotics may be prescribed if further treatment is needed."

Citing the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), Dr Luz said there is currently no evidence that animals play a role in the spread of the virus to humans, with the risk of humans contracting the coronavirus from animals "very low".

Apart from the Night Safari and Singapore Zoo, the Mandai Wildlife Group also manages Jurong Bird Park and River Wonders.

Zoos and wildlife parks across the US have increasingly chosen to vaccinate their animals against the virus, some after reporting cases of infection among their mammals.

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