Tigers at Zoo Knoxville released from quarantine after fully recovering from COVID-19

Three year old Malayan tiger Arya arrived at Zoo Knoxville Thursday, Jan. 26 2017. Arya was...
Three year old Malayan tiger Arya arrived at Zoo Knoxville Thursday, Jan. 26 2017. Arya was born at the Fresno Chaffee Zoo in California and comes to Tennessee as part of the Malayan tiger Species Survival Plan.(WVLT)
Published: Oct. 30, 2020 at 12:41 PM EDT|Updated: Nov. 9, 2020 at 3:29 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A tiger at Zoo Knoxville has been released from quarantine after testing positive on Oct. 30 for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.

Bashir, an 11-year-old male tiger tested positive for the virus. Arya, a 6-year-old female and Tanvir, an 11-year-old male also exhibited symptoms and were presumed positive.

All three tigers were in isolation and being cared for by the veterinary team from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine. Zoo Knoxville said the tigers are alert, active and no longer exhibiting symptoms.

“Bashir was the only tiger treated for symptoms with anti-inflammatories and antibiotics and those have been discontinued. It was a mild disease so minimal treatment and while I’m not sure of the cost of the medications, they are not expensive,” said caretakers.

Investigators are working to learn how the tigers became infected, but suspect an asymptomatically infected staff member working in close proximity to the tigers when caring for them could have exposed them to the virus.

No other animals at Zoo Knoxville have shown signs of illness, officials said.

“Zoo Knoxville’s safety protocols include the use of protective gear while caring for animals, and this was standard practice before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said a release. “Mask and gloves have been protocol since the beginning of the pandemic, and we also reduced the amount of time staff were interacting with the tigers (i.e. training sessions, etc.) at that time as well. When we had a positive diagnosis we added face shields, Tyvek suits and shoe covers and the tigers are quarantined. We also limited the number of staff in the area since the positive diagnosis.”

A Zoo Knoxville official said regularly testing the tigers for SARS-CoV-2 is not advised due to the need to sedate the animals to administer the test.

Animal experts said no tigers have ever died due to the virus.

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