It's been a trying couple of months for the staff at the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History in Sioux Falls given the fact that most of the zoo's big cats were diagnosed with COVID-19. The big cats were then forced to quarantine in separate enclosures away from the public.

Late last week, our friends at Pigeon605 got the exclusive report that every big cat at the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History has tested negative for the virus. This means that our cool cat friends were able to return to their public viewing habitats!

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According to a report from Pigeon605, the first big cat to test positive for COVID at the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History was the Amur tiger, Keesa. Keesa’s October 6th diagnosis was followed by the zoo's snow leopard, Baya succumbing to a respiratory illness the next day.

Baya the Snow Leopard
Dakota News Now (with permission)
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It was later confirmed that Baya died from complications from pneumonia that were "induced by the COVID-19 virus." Baya had no prior health conditions before her tragic death.

The CEO of the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History Becky Dewitz explains to Pigeon605 having the big cats return to the public is bittersweet. "While we still grieve the loss of Baya, we are grateful for the other big cats to recover successfully from their COVID-19 infections. As representatives to their wild counterparts, these animals help promote appreciation and conservation of their species," according to Ms. Dewitz. The fall weather is truly the perfect opportunity to see all the big cats at the zoo now that they are out and about. The cats tend to be more active in cooler temperatures too!

The zoo's veterinary staff has continuously been conducting tests on the big cats that have contracted COVID-19, diligently checking their conditions. Staff working closely with any COVID-19 susceptible species are required to "wear personal protective equipment including N95 masks, gloves, booties and face shields." Proper care of the big cats, as well as their caregivers, is paramount at the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History.

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