October 14, 2021

Denver Zoo’s Tigers Test Positive for COVID-19

November 3 Update: Nikita and Yuri have received three consecutive negative tests, and are considered fully recovered from COVID-19. Keepers say both tigers are doing well and are no longer showing any symptoms, and have good appetites.


On October 14, we announced that our two 11-year-old Amur tigers, Yuri and Nikita, tested positive for the virus that causes COVID-19. After our animal care staff observed coughing, sneezing, lethargy, and nasal discharge in both animals, the tigers tested presumptive positive through fecal and nasal swab samples at the Colorado State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory in Fort Collins, CO. The results were also confirmed positive by the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories. Yuri and Nikita are the first animals at the Zoo to test positive for COVID-19. 

“We’ve known for a while what species at the Zoo are susceptible to the virus, and we’ve taken every necessary precaution to protect  our animals,” said Brian Aucone, Senior Vice President for Life Sciences at Denver Zoo. “Although we can’t be certain how Yuri and Nikita became infected with COVID-19, we’re fortunate to have an incredible staff with the expertise and experience to recognize their symptoms, and provide excellent care and treatment.”   

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have taken extraordinary measures to safeguard the health of its guests, staff, and animals. We’ve worked closely with a number of partners to develop effective health and safety protocols, including Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), Denver Department of Public Health and Environment (DDPHE), Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Our animal care staff adheres to strict COVID-19 protocols around our animals, including required use of personal protective equipment, hygiene, cleaning, employee self-screening, and health management.   

Additionally, in 2020, we installed protective barriers around the tigers’ habitat, The Edge, to ensure safe distancing between guests and the animals. Although neither tiger has been vaccinated against COVID-19, our veterinarians are planning to vaccinate them along with other big cat species as soon as more doses of the animal-specific Zoetis vaccine become available.   

For an update on our African Lions, please click HERE.


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