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Honolulu Zoo’s only male lion dies after contracting coronavirus

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / 2010
                                Ekundu, 3, makes his first appearance in 2010 to the public in the lion exhibit at the Honolulu Zoo. Zoo officials announced his death after contracting coronavirus.

    STAR-ADVERTISER / 2010

    Ekundu, 3, makes his first appearance in 2010 to the public in the lion exhibit at the Honolulu Zoo. Zoo officials announced his death after contracting coronavirus.

  • COURTESY HONOLULU ZOO
                                The Honolulu Zoo’s only male lion, Ekundu, died Monday of coronavirus, the city announced Friday afternoon.

    COURTESY HONOLULU ZOO

    The Honolulu Zoo’s only male lion, Ekundu, died Monday of coronavirus, the city announced Friday afternoon.

The Honolulu Zoo’s only male lion, Ekundu, died Monday after testing positive for the coronavirus, city officials announced Friday afternoon.

Ekundu, 13, came to Honolulu in 2010. He and 12-year-old female lion Moxy both showed signs of an upper respiratory illness, including some coughing, on Oct. 4.

Samples were collected and sent to mainland laboratories, and both were found to be positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans.

Ekundu, who had been treated for epilepsy for more than five years, got sicker and was no longer eating.

Although he seemed to be improving, he died before test results were received.

Zoo veterinarian Jill Yoshicedo said that “while most SARS-CoV-2 infections in large non-domestic cats have been mild illnesses that respond well to supportive care, Ekundu was unfortunately one of the newer cases where COVID seems to be linked to severe pneumonia and tragic loss of life in these species.”

The zoo says it does not know the source of the virus. Zoo staff who care for the big cats were vaccinated and complied with the city’s employee vaccination policy. All tested negative for COVID-19.

“Zoo staff continue to practice strict biohazard protocols to prevent any spread of the virus to other animal areas,” the city said in a news release today.

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