Lahore: Two 11-week-old white tiger cubs that died in a Pakistani zoo last month appear to have died of Covid-19, officials said.
The cubs died in the Lahore Zoo on Jan. 30, four days after beginning treatment for what officials thought was feline panleukopenia virus, a disease that zoo officials said is common in Pakistan and targets cats' immune system.
But an autopsy found the cubs' lungs were badly damaged and they were suffering from severe infection. The pathologists concluded they died from Covid-19.
Although no PCR test for the new coronavirus was conducted, zoo deputy director Kiran Saleem told Reuters the zoo believes the cubs were the victims of the pandemic that has killed 12,256 people in Pakistan.
"After their death, the zoo administration conducted tests of all officials, and six were tested positive, including one official who handled the cubs," Saleem said. "It strengthens the findings of the autopsy. The cubs probably caught the virus from the person handling and feeding them."
Pakistan's zoos regularly draw the ire of animal rights activists, who say hundreds of animals have died due to poor living conditions. "The last two white tiger cubs have died at Lahore zoo and once again the negligence of the management and authorities has come out," said Zufishan Anushay, founder of JFK (Justice for Kiki) Animal Rescue And Shelter. "White tigers are rare. They need a specific habitat and environment to live a healthy life. By caging them in unhygienic conditions with no medical arrangements, we will keep witnessing these incidents."