News & Politics

Most of the National Zoo’s Big Cats Are Recovering From Covid

One lion is still testing positive for the virus.

Photo courtesy of Smithsonian's National Zoo.

Six lions and three tigers are on their way to recuperating from coronavirus, the Zoo announced on Friday. The big cats tested positive for the virus in mid-September and have been undergoing treatment since their diagnoses.

Keepers have continued to conduct Covid tests using fecal samples. Eight of the cats’ most recent samples have returned as “undetermined,” which is a presumptive negative. Only one feline’s test returned positive: 16-year-old lion king Luke. The Zoo anticipates that all big cats will be virus-free in one to two weeks.

Recovery is in sight, but not without close calls. Lioness Shera was diagnosed with a kidney disease after contracting coronavirus, which prompted Zoo staff to discuss whether to euthanize her. Although Shera continues to recover, her kidney functions will likely remain a concern.

The cats were originally tested after displaying symptoms such as sluggishness and waning appetites. However, the animals are now eating and acting normally.


Daniella Byck
Lifestyle Editor

Daniella Byck joined Washingtonian in 2022. She was previously with Outside Magazine and lives in Northeast DC.