Singapore Zoo, Night Safari lions infected by COVID-19 Delta strain: AVS

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An African lion at the Singapore Zoo. (PHOTO: Mandai Wildlife Group)
An African lion at the Singapore Zoo. (PHOTO: Mandai Wildlife Group)

SINGAPORE — The five lions at the Mandai Wildlife Group's Singapore Zoo and Night Safari which had tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month were infected by the more contagious Delta strain.

In response to Yahoo News Singapore's queries, the Animal & Veterinary Service (AVS) on Friday (26 November) said that this was confirmed by the virus genome sequencing of the animals' samples. 

When asked about whether it will be testing samples from other animals in the Mandai Wildlife Group's wildlife parks, the AVS noted that there are no signs of sickness in other animals.

Routine testing of healthy animals for COVID-19 "is not recommended at this stage" by the World Organisation for Animal Health, it added.

The AVS had on 9 November announced that four Asiatic lions at the Night Safari tested positive for COVID-19

A day later, it confirmed that an African lion at the Singapore Zoo also tested positive for the disease.

The animals had exhibited respiratory symptoms including coughing, sneezing, and lethargy, following exposure to infected keepers from the Mandai Wildlife Group.

It was the first time that any animal at its four wildlife parks – which manages includes Jurong Bird Park and River Wonders – was confirmed to be infected with the disease.

African lion exhibit to reopen; Asiatic lions still isolated

In a separate media statement on Friday, the Mandai Wildlife Group said Singapore Zoo will reopen its African lion exhibit on Saturday following the recovery of the infected lion. The exhibit had been closed since 9 November.

All five African lions had been quarantined in the back-of-house area since the detection of the disease among them on 9 November. Such areas are designed as standalone units for different species and are not connected.

The AVS lifted the isolation order on the lions on Tuesday. 

However, the Night Safari's Asiatic lions remain in isolation with mild symptoms. Its exhibit along the tram route at the park has been closed since 7 November, with all nine Asiatic lions isolated in the back-of-house area. 

"All the lions are bright, alert, and recovering well. The animal care and veterinary teams continue to provide them with the necessary care and ensure they stay well hydrated," the Mandai Wildlife Group said.

The group also added that the infected keepers have since fully recovered and are back to work, adding that no other species have been observed to be exhibiting symptoms of the virus.

It previously said the staff members had likely been infected independently of each other. More than 99 per cent of their employees are fully vaccinated with staff members progressively receiving booster shots.

There are no plans yet to vaccinate animals across its wildlife parks against COVID-19.

Across the US, zoos and wildlife parks have increasingly opted to vaccinate their animals against the virus, some after reporting cases of infection among their mammals.

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