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5 Miller Park Zoo big cats test positive for COVID

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BLOOMINGTON — Five big cats at Bloomington's Miller Park Zoo have tested positive for COVID-19, the city announced Friday afternoon.

The zoo's one Sumatran tiger and four snow leopards started showing symptoms of labored breathing and a cough Nov. 20, and zoo staff and veterinarians took precautions as soon as those symptoms appeared, a news release stated.

COVID vaccines for Bloomington zoo animals could be on the way

Zoo director Jay Tetzloff told The Pantagraph on Wednesday that the five cats with symptoms were already being treated for coronavirus and are responding to that treatment.

“Since the Katthoefer Animal Building has been closed for almost two weeks, any issue has been isolated,” he said in Friday's news release. “The Miller Park Zoo, as always, is safe for our guests to come out to the zoo and enjoy Wild Lights.

Wild Lights prices this weekend are free to Miller Park Zoological Society members and $5 for non-members. Anyone who purchased full-price tickets in advance will receive a $3 reimbursement, or they can choose to have the money go to the zoo as a charitable donation. For now, pricing for the second weekend of the event, Dec. 10 and 11, will remain at $3 for Miller Park Zoological Society members and $8 for non-members.

The De Brazza's Monkey exhibit is expected to open in mid-July, and zoo officials expect to break ground this fall on a new South America exhibit that will feature three different animals — Giant Anteaters, Galapagos Tortoises and Bush Dogs.

Masks are required at all indoor spaces at the zoo.

On Wednesday, Tezloff that while COVID vaccines are available for certain species of animals that are more susceptible to the virus, such as carnivores and primates, the zoo so far has held off on those, deciding to monitor how animals at other zoos respond. He said testing of the vaccine is limited for animals due to certain species being endangered, which made vaccinations riskier.

"We've just been waiting, evaluating, talking with others, and we've gotten closer to saying yes (to the vaccine) every time we've talked about it," he said.

Contact Robyn Skaggs at (309) 820-3244.

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