Johannesburg Zoo

A Lioness in Iran escapes with mate and kills zoo keeper. Image via Unsplash

Johannesburg Zoo denies its staff infected animals with Covid-19

The Johannesburg Zoo has denied allegations claiming that lions and pumas tested Covid-19 positive after interacting with staff.

Johannesburg Zoo

A Lioness in Iran escapes with mate and kills zoo keeper. Image via Unsplash

The Johannesburg Zoo has hit back at claims that their lions and pumas tested positive for Covid-19 after interacting with staff after a Pretoria University study revealed that such took place at a private zoo in Gauteng. 

The study revealed that Covid-19 Delta variants were transmitted from humans who had mild symptoms to animals. 

Data from the study titled “SARS-CoV-2 Reverse Zoonoses to Pumas and Lions, South Africa” suggested that SARS-CoV-2 was circulating among staff during the time that the lions got sick, and suggested that those with direct contact with the animals were likely responsible for the reverse zoonotic transmission. 


The Johannesburg Zoo veterinary team which is led by Dr Arnold Kanengoni has verified that the big cats at the Joburg Zoo have not been infected and neither contracted the Covid-19 virus since the start of the pandemic.

Kanengoni said the zoo keepers continue to take strict precautionary measures before, during and after the handling of all animals as well as their enclosures.

“The dedication and compassion of zoo staff, for the welfare, care and treatment of all their animals at the Joburg Zoo is their number one priority. During the pandemic, we ensured that every precautionary measure was taken and we continue to do so,” she said. 

Kanengoni also reiterated that none of their  primates and carnivores have been affected by COVID-19 as far as we are aware. 

“We have been monitoring our animals carefully during this pandemic for any signs and symptoms of this infection and there has been none. We have ensured that all veterinary staff, keepers, animal attendants and those preparing food for the animals observe all the precautions to stop the spread of the virus when dealing with the animals e.g. wearing masks, sanitizing, washing of hands and observing social distancing.”

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