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Lion dies after contracting COVID-19

By Web Staff

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    HONOLULU (KITV) — The Honolulu Zoo announced Friday that a 13-year-old African lion by the name of Ekundu died on Monday, October 11, 2021.

Ekundu and another 12-year-old female lion by the name of Moxy first showed signs of upper respiratory illness with some coughing.

Both results came back positive for SARS-CoV-2 however they were only received after Ekundu’s passing due to testing being performed at mainland laboratories.

Despite continued treatment, Ekundu passed away one week after his signs initially presented.

Zoo veterinarian Jill Yoshicedo shared that “while most SARS-CoV-2 infections in large non-domestic cats have been mild illnesses that respond well to supportive care, Ekundu was, unfortunately, one of the newer cases where COVID seems to be linked to severe pneumonia and tragic loss of life in these species.”

Moxy’s symptoms seemed to quickly diminish and is expected to make a full recovery.

“I commend our veterinary and keeper staff for their tireless efforts and care for Ekundu. As the only male lion at the Honolulu Zoo, Ekundu was beloved and iconic. The zoo ohana is very saddened with his passing, and are working together to remain focused on the health and welfare of Moxy, and the care for the rest of our animals in the zoo,” said Santos Zoo Director.

Ekundu was born on November 2, 2007, and came to the Honolulu Zoo in 2010.

Ekundu, who has been treated for epilepsy for more than five years, began to get sicker until he was no longer eating. Once he could no longer receive his supportive medication in food, veterinary and animal care teams decided to anesthetize him to provide treatment such as antibiotics, fluid therapy, and other medications to help him feel better.

Ekundu’s upper respiratory symptoms resolved in response to the treatments, but he began to show signs of lower respiratory disease with more difficulty breathing over the next few days.

The source of the lions’ infection remains unknown. All staff in close contact with the lions were previously vaccinated and compliant with the City’s employee vaccination policy. They were also tested for COVID-19 and found to be negative. Zoo staff continues to practice strict biohazard protocols to prevent any spread of the virus to other animal areas.

“As animals can contract COVID-19 from humans, our staff are reminded to constantly and consistently work safely and follow protocols to keep our animals safe. We also would like to take this opportunity to remind all guests visiting the zoo to wear a mask in the identified zoonotic-risk animal areas which include primates, cats, dogs, and hoofstock,” added Santos.

African lions typically live up to 15-25 years in captivity.

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