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4 Asiatic lions at Night Safari test positive for Covid-19 after exposure to infected staff

SINGAPORE — Four Asiatic lions at the Night Safari have tested positive for Covid-19 after being exposed to staff members from Mandai Wildlife Group who were infected with the coronavirus.

Asiatic lions at the Night Safari.

Asiatic lions at the Night Safari.

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SINGAPORE — Four Asiatic lions at the Night Safari have tested positive for Covid-19 after being exposed to staff from Mandai Wildlife Group who were infected with the coronavirus.

One African lion at Singapore Zoo was being tested for Covid-19, the Animal and Veterinary Service (AVS) said in a media release on Tuesday (Nov 9).

AVS, which is under the National Parks Board, added that the Asiatic lions showed mild signs of sickness including coughing, sneezing and lethargy last Saturday and similar symtoms were observed for the African lion on Monday.

In response to TODAY’s queries, Mandai Wildlife Group, which runs the wildlife parks, said that three keepers from the Night Safari's carnivore section had tested positive for Covid-19.

Two of the keepers tested positive while off-duty and the third, who had no symptoms, tested positive at work after tests were conducted on team members who had been in contact with the first two. The third keeper was immediately stood down from duty.

AVS noted that the World Organisation for Animal Health has said there is currently no evidence that animals play a role in the spread of the disease to humans, although there have been sporadic and isolated reports in other countries of animals testing positive after being in close contact with people who have Covid-19.

The spread of Covid-19 is predominantly a result of human-to-human transmission.

In a separate statement, Mandai Wildlife Group said that the Asiatic lion exhibit along the tram route on the Night Safari had been closed since Sunday.

The Zoo’s African lion exhibit was closed on Tuesday.

The lions were expected to make a full recovery, it added.

AVS also said that it has issued an order to 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 one African lion that have displayed symptoms.

“AVS is working with the Mandai Wildlife Group to closely monitor the health of the lions and will be testing samples from the remaining lions,” it added.

Dr Sonja Luz, vice-president of conservation, research and veterinary of Mandai Wildlife Group, said in the statement that the Asiatic lions have been isolated at the back of house since Sunday and have remained under close observation by the animal care and veterinary teams.

The group is also obtaining more samples from other lions for further testing by AVS.

“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,” she said.

Dr Luz said that in light of the development, Mandai Wildlife Group is taking steps to improve handling protocols including routine antigen rapid tests for the animal care team.

“The health and safety of our guests, staff and animals are our top priority. From the onset of Covid-19 in 2020, in line with the recommendations made by leading professional zoological associations, we have put in place additional safety measures to reduce the likelihood of asymptomatic animal carers inadvertently passing the disease to susceptible species.” 

She added that all the lions remain bright, alert and are eating well.

“There has been evidence that animals, in general, 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,” Dr Luz said.

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Covid-19 coronavirus Singapore Zoo Night Safari lions

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