3 lions still dealing with aftermath of COVID-19 infections at Smithsonian National Zoo

Three African lions at the Smithsonian National Zoo in D.C. are still struggling through their COVID-19 infections, while the six other great cats who came down with the virus are on the mend.

The three lions — older female Shera and adult males Shaka and Jumbe — were exhibiting a lack of appetite, dehydration and abnormal respiration following news of their positive diagnosis on Sept. 17, according to the zoo.

It motivated the zoo to put all three lions under anesthesia the next day for antibiotic and fluid treatments as well as for bloodwork.

The condition of Shera, who will turn 17 in November, is of particular concern to the zoo.

Her bloodwork indicated she had suffered renal failure. After two more rounds of fluid treatments and another check on her bloodwork, the zoo said, Shera’s condition hasn’t declined any further, though she has yet to show signs of improvement.

The zoo said that 7-year-old males Shaka and Jumbe are improving overall, despite not being able to shake their symptoms.

Other great cats who came down with COVID-19 — female Sumatran tiger Damai, male Amur tiger Metis and female Amur tiger Nikita — are eating and alert. However, Nikita and Damai still have a mild cough.

Fellow African lions in adult lionesses Amahle and Naba and adult male Luke have shown improvements following their positive diagnosis last week.

The zoo said that its keepers had noticed decreased appetites, coughing, sneezing and lethargy among several lions and tigers as early as Sept. 11 and 12.

Fecal samples for all great cats tested presumptive positive the week of Sept. 13, per the zoo. Final results are still pending until a laboratory can confirm them.

The great cats’ conditions don’t require them to remain inside, so the zoo said it will continue to manage their access to outdoor habitats.

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Matthew Delaney

Matt Delaney is a digital web writer/editor who joined WTOP in 2020.

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