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Unvaccinated snow leopard at San Diego Zoo catches COVID-19

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Posted at 5:10 PM, Jul 24, 2021

SAN DIEGO (AP) -- A snow leopard at the San Diego Zoo has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Ramil, a 9-year-old male snow leopard, was tested for the virus after caretakers noticed that he had a cough and runny nose on Thursday. The animal's stool sample was tested by the zoo staff and at a state-level lab, both of which confirmed the presence of the coronavirus, the zoo said in a statement Friday.

Ramil is not showing additional symptoms. But because he shares an enclosure with a female snow leopard and two Amur leopards, the staff assumes they have been exposed. As a result, the animals were quarantined and their exhibit was closed.

It's unclear how Ramil got infected.

In January, a troop of eight gorillas at the zoo's sister facility, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, contracted COVID-19 from a keeper who had the virus but showed no symptoms.

The gorilla troop, which has since recovered, became the first known example of the virus infecting apes.

There is no vaccine mandate for the staff, but unvaccinated employees are required to wear masks at all times, the zoo said.

Earlier this year, the zoo received a batch of an experimental vaccine intended for use in protecting animals against COVID-19.

The zoo said its staff administered shots to species most at risk of contracting COVID-19, including several primates and felines. However, Ramil had not been vaccinated before his infection.