April 15, 2021



Update: the lions have made a full recovery.

Two female lions at the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium have tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in people. Both lions were displaying clinical signs of occasional coughing and diarrhea but were otherwise normal. However, positive cases at other zoos prompted the veterinary team to test all six animals out of an abundance of caution, even though four of the lions were reportedly healthy. The Pittsburgh Zoo has been closely following CDC guidelines and have been in close contact with experts who have been monitoring and testing for this disease.

“The risk of infection between zoo animals and guests is very low,” says Dr. Barbara Baker, President & CEO. “as we do not allow any of our visitors to come within close proximity to any of our cats.” There has been no evidence that wild or domestic cats have played a significant role in spreading the virus to humans in the US. We continue to prioritize the health and well-being of our animals and their devoted caretakers by instituting the highest level of care and biosecurity. 

PCR testing of fecal matter revealed that two of the cats were infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, likely contracted after exposure to an asymptomatic zoo employee. All animals and staff are being closely monitored through the pandemic.

Other cases in animals have occurred at several other zoological and wildlife institutions with favorable results after supportive care. We are using their valuable experience and information as well as working with a network of collaborators to treat the infected cats. The lions are expected to make a full recovery.