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Lions at Audubon Zoo Positive for Virus that Causes Covid-19

Posted By : The Animal Facts Editorial Team

Date: January 2, 2022 5:00 am

Lions Positive for Covid Audubon Zoo

Arnold the African lion is one of the pride members which have tested positive to Covid-19 at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans

Photo Credit: Amanda Carberry/ Columbus Zoo and Aquairum

Three African lions have tested positive for  SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. A further three lions within the pride are undergoing testing to determine if they have also contracted the virus.


During the week of December 20th 2021 the three lions were observed by animal care staff to be coughing and have nasal discharge. Animal care staff collected Nasal and fecal samples for three symptomatic lions and tested them at the Louisiana Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (LADDL) in Baton Rouge.

At present the three lions appear to have a normal appetite and are eating well. Other than coughing and nasal discharge they have exhibited few other symptoms. The pride are undergoing quarantine in their habitat.

While the lions are still on display barriers are in place at their enclosure to distance them from guests.

“As with all of the Zoo’s animals, Arnold, Kali, and Asani continue to receive excellent care,” said Audubon’s Senior Veterinarian Bob MacLean. “Audubon’s veterinary and husbandry teams are skilled and dedicated professionals who work tirelessly to ensure the well-being of the animals in our care.” 

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As yet it is unclear how the lions acquired their infection. The most likely scenario is that it was acquired from an asymptomatic carrier. Audubon Zoo have always had biosecurity protocols in place and these were heightened at the beginning of the pandemic.

Protocols include PPE, cleaning and disinfection, quarantine protocols for new arrivals and preventative care such as vaccination for both staff and keepers.

“Audubon is taking all recommended precautions to protect keepers from becoming infected and to prevent any further transmission from people to the lions,” said State Public Health Veterinarian & Assistant State Epidemiologist Gary A. Balsamo, DVM, MPH&TM. “The lions are always separated from the public by at least six feet, and that distance has recently been increased to ensure no risk to the public.” 

In October the Audubon Zoo began to administer vaccines to their animals. The program began with the great apes such as orangutans and gorillas. In the second phase the cats and mustelids such as otters will be vaccinated. As such as the time of their infection the lions were not vaccinated.

MacLean added, “Guests should feel confident in knowing that they are not at risk from animals when visiting the Zoo.”

Learn more about African Lions here – African Lion Fact File | The Animal Facts

Learn more about the Audubon Zoo on their website – Audubon Zoo

Lions Positive for Covid Audubon Zoo

Members of the African lion pride have tested positive to Covid-19 at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans. Pictured is Arnold and two of his cubs.

Photo Credit: Audubon Zoo

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