Snow Leopards Tested Positive For COVID-19 In The San Diego Zoo In The United States.

The snow leopard (Panthera uncia), also known as the ounce, is a felid in the genus Panthera native to the mountain ranges of Central and South Asia. It is listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List because the global population is estimated to number fewer than 10,000 mature individuals and is expected to decline about 10% by 2040.

The word panther derives from the classical Latin panthēra, itself from the ancient Greek pánthēr, which was used for spotted cats.

It is threatened by poaching and habitat destruction following infrastructural developments. It inhabits alpine and subalpine zones at elevations from 3,000 to 4,500 m (9,800 to 14,800 ft), ranging from eastern Afghanistan, the Himalayas, and the Tibetan Plateau, to southern Siberia, Mongolia, and western China. In the northern part of its range, it also lives at lower elevations.

Taxonomically, the snow leopard was long classified in the monotypic genus Uncia. Since phylogenetic studies revealed the relationships among Panthera species, it has been considered a member of that genus. Two subspecies were described based on morphological differences, but genetic differences between the two have not been confirmed. It is therefore regarded as a monotypic species.

An unvaccinated snow leopard at the San Diego zoo has contracted Covid-19. Caretakers noticed that Ramil, a nine-year-old male snow leopard, had a cough and runny nose on Thursday. Later, two separate tests of his stool confirmed the presence of the coronavirus, the zoo said in a statement on Friday.


Ramil is not showing additional symptoms, the zoo said, but because he shares an enclosure with a female snow leopard and two Amur leopards, the staff are assuming they have been exposed. As a result, the animals were quarantined and their exhibit was closed. 

It is unclear how Ramil got infected. The case prompted the zoo to request an experimental Covid-19 vaccine for animals for emergency use. The vaccine from Zoetis, the animal health company that was once part of Pfizer, was administered to species most at risk of contracting the virus, including several primates and big cats.

However, Ramil had not been vaccinated before his infection. There is no vaccine mandate for the staff, but unvaccinated employees are required to wear masks at all times, the zoo officials said.

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