MINOT, ND – Roosevelt Park Zoo staff will increase the required use of personal protective equipment during animal care. Protocols will be updated to reflect PPE use during interaction with species proven to be at a higher risk for contracting COVID-19 from human keepers. Beginning April 6, RPZ staff will use surgical facemasks and gloves during interaction with cats, otters and ferrets. These species represent the felid and mustelid families, the two most at risk in our care.
Roosevelt Park Zoo Veterinarian Dr. Logan Wood will continue to monitor human-to-animal transmission reports. Additional species may be recommended in the future. For now, we will work to preserve surgical and N95 masks to accommodate the human medical needs.
RPZ staff will continue to practice social distancing, hand washing, cleaning and foot bath protocols for all interaction with animals and each other. Staff will also continue to observe the existing protocol for the use of gloves and surgical masks during interactions with nonhuman primates. Cloth masks are optional for staff use in other animal areas.
In an April 5 press release, the Bronx Zoo announced one Malayan Tiger had tested positive for COVID-19. That case has been confirmed by the USDA. The Bronx Zoo had tested all big cats on April 3 after observing upper respiratory symptoms and lethargy. One keeper was asymptomatic and tested positive. The Bronx Zoo increased PPE for all non-domestic felids.
RPZ Veterinarian Dr. Logan Wood is active in several nationwide veterinary networks, including the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians and the Association of Zoos & Aquariums. Dr. Wood says that in March, computer-based modeling was used to determine which animals are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and/or serving as a host for antigenic shift of the virus RNA creating a potential risk for felids and mustelids to contract the virus. In most lab settings, those species showed no clinical signs of COVID-19, while the Bronx Zoo reported observable symptoms.
Health and safety of both humans and animals at Roosevelt Park Zoo will continue to be top priority. Protocols will evolve as needed in order to guard that priority as new information becomes available.