Officials at a Pakistani zoo believe COVID-19 has claimed the lives of two white tiger cubs. The 11-week-old cubs died at the Lahore Zoo on Jan. 30, Reuters reports, four days after beginning treatment for presumed cases of feline panleukopenia virus, which, per the Washington Post, is a “fairly common” illness. However, necropsies showed that the cubs had badly damaged lungs, leading pathologists to determine COVID as the cause of death. “After their death, the zoo administration conducted tests of all officials, and six were tested positive, including one official who handled the cubs,” zoo Deputy Director Kiran Saleem tells Reuters.
“It strengthens the findings of the (necropsy),” Saleem says. “The cubs probably caught the virus from the person handling and feeding them.” COVID has been detected in big cats and other animal populations around the world, the Post notes, raising questions about the lengths it will take to contain the virus and its ability to mutate. “For highly contagious respiratory viruses, it’s really important to be mindful of the animal reservoir,” an expert told Colorado Public Radio in December. “If the virus returns to the animal host and mutates, or changes, in such a way that it could be reintroduced to humans, then the humans would no longer have that immunity. That makes me very concerned.” (Read more COVID-19 stories.)