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National Zoo Continues to Treat Great Cats Positive for COVID-19, Lions of Most Concern

NBC Washington D.C. logo NBC Washington D.C. 9/25/2021 Gabriela Perez Jordan
a lion with its mouth open: Photo taken on May 21, 2021 shows a lion at Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., the United States. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo reopened in Washington D.C. on Friday at 20 percent of its full capacity, allowing guests to visit the nation’s beloved giant pandas and many other wild animals. The zoo closed in March 2020 and reopened in July, then shut down again in November due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Liu Jie/Xinhua via Getty Images) © Xinhua News Agency via Getty Ima

Photo taken on May 21, 2021 shows a lion at Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., the United States. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo reopened in Washington D.C. on Friday at 20 percent of its full capacity, allowing guests to visit the nation’s beloved giant pandas and many other wild animals. The zoo closed in March 2020 and reopened in July, then shut down again in November due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Liu Jie/Xinhua via Getty Images)

National Zoo staff is closely monitoring the health of three lions that have demonstrated a severe lack of appetite, dehydration and abnormal respiration after testing positive for COVID-19.

Due to increased worries over their health, the zoo staff anesthetized Shera, an old female lion, and Shaka and Jumbe, two adult males, for fluid therapy and administration of antibiotics. Staff also collected blood samples.

Since then, Shaka and Jumbe have somewhat improved, but they continue to exhibit lethargy, decreased appetite, coughing and nasal discharge.

The zoo is most concerned about Shera, who turns 17 in November, and continues to receive fluid therapies. Her lab results have neither improved nor declined since indicating the presence of renal failure, the National Zoo said.

The National Zoo says the rest of the big cats that tested positive continue to eat and are alert, but some still have a very mild cough as they recover from the aftermath of COVID-19.

To combat the big cats' decreased appetite, the National Zoo has been adding specialty items to their diets such as, goat milk, goat cheese, chicken broth, baby food and elk meat, in order to stimulate eating.

The zoo said its COVID-19 safety and response protocols continue to be in place and strictly followed.

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