Snow leopard with COVID symptoms dies at South Dakota zoo

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A snow leopard at South Dakota’s Great Plains Zoo has died days after exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, the zoo announced Friday.

Baya, the 2-year-old snow leopard, was new to the zoo after being transferred from the Akron Zoo earlier this year. Her zookeepers described her as “playful and sweet.”

On Oct. 3, Baya started showing signs of a cough, which was followed on Monday, Oct. 4, by inappetence and lethargy. On Thursday, Baya suffered a “rapid decline of respiratory function” and died that evening, the zoo said in a statement.

Baya | Courtesy Great Plains Zoo

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Baya. Our animal care and veterinary staffs fought arduously and did their best to help give Baya a fighting chance,” CEO Becky Dewitz said. “This loss is a deep wound, and our team grieves together.”

Just a day before, on Wednesday, an Amur tiger named Keesa tested positive for COVID-19.

Baya will undergo a necropsy to determine her exact cause of death.

The male Baya was paired with, named Strut, is currently showing minor symptoms and receiving antibiotics and other care, the zoo said. He is still residing at the zoo.

As of 2017, snow leopards have been identified on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List as vulnerable in the wild — an upgrade from endangered.

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