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Alberta zoos putting protections in place for big cats amid COVID-19 pandemic

Xena, one of the zoo's Canadian lynx.
Xena, one of the zoo's Canadian lynx. Courtesy: City of Edmonton Valley Zoo Facebook page

After news that a tiger in the Bronx Zoo tested positive for the novel coronavirus, both the Edmonton Valley Zoo and the Calgary Zoo have been taking additional measures to protect their big cats.

According to a statement from the Edmonton Valley Zoo, the only non-human species currently known to be able to contract COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, are members of the cat family.

READ MORE: Tiger at Bronx Zoo tests positive for coronavirus — U.S. officials

The zoo has two serval cats, two Canadian lynx, two snow leopards, two Amur (Siberian) tigers and even two domestic cats.

While the team at the Edmonton Valley Zoo has always used personal protective equipment (PPE) when training, shifting and feeding their cats, the zoo has added masks to the PPE after recommendations from veterinary advisers.

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Coronavirus outbreak: U.S. officials say tiger at Bronx Zoo tests positive for COVID-19
Coronavirus outbreak: U.S. officials say tiger at Bronx Zoo tests positive for COVID-19

All materials, including food bowls, are disinfected, and the zoo has implemented a physical-distancing policy, meaning all staff are keeping at least two metres from the cats at all times.

READ MORE: 1 month after Alberta’s first COVID-19 case, what’s changed?

The zoo, along with all city-run facilities, was closed on March 14 as the City of Edmonton reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Calgary, the zoo says it has been taking extra precautions for several weeks with its team and all animals.

The zoo has two Amur tigers named Youri and Sarma. The two remain healthy and are exhibiting normal tiger behaviours, as statement from the zoo said.

READ MORE: Calgary Zoo, YMCA announce layoffs amid COVID-19 pandemic

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The zoo also said it remains in close contact with all accredited zoos around the world to share learnings as the novel coronavirus pandemic continues.

The Calgary Zoo closed its gates on March 16 and had to lay off 60 per cent of its employees.