Rare snow leopard dies after showing signs of COVID-19

The zoo says Baya began exhibiting a cough and lethargy over the earlier this month.
The zoo says Baya began exhibiting a cough and lethargy over the earlier this month.(Dakota News Now)
Published: Oct. 12, 2021 at 11:27 AM EDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Gray News) – A rare snow leopard at a zoo in South Dakota died after showing signs of COVID-19.

According to the Great Plains Zoo, Baya started showing signs of a cough on Oct. 3. The leopard’s health quickly declined, and a team was put together to provide Baya with 24-hour care.

Despite best efforts, Baya died on Oct. 7.

Zoo officials say a necropsy will be performed to determine how the leopard died and if there were any contributing factors.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Baya,” said CEO Becky Dewitz. “Each day, our animal care staff work to give our animals high quality care and their passion and dedication is evident. This loss is a deep wound, and our team grieves together.”

The zoo made a post on Facebook to recognize a family’s kind gesture of bringing zoo employees sympathy cards and flowers after learning Baya had died.

“It is always tough when you lose any animal unexpectedly, especially one as rare as an endangered snow leopard,” said Dan Ashe, president and CEO of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

Baya, 2.5 years old, came to the Great Plains Zoo as a breeding recommendation as part of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums’ survival plan for snow leopards.

Strut, the male she was paired with at the zoo, is currently experiencing minor symptoms, according to the zoo.

A tiger at the zoo tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 6.

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