Belgium’s National Veterinary Laboratory has confirmed that two hippopotamuses at the Antwerp Zoo – Imani, 14, and Hermine, 41 – have contracted COVID-19.
It is unclear how they caught it.
Both giant semi-aquatic herbivores are fine, apart from exceptionally runny noses.
Keepers have tightened virus restrictions around the zoo.
To my knowledge, this is the first recorded contamination among these species. Worldwide, this virus has been seen mostly in great apes and cats,” said Francis Verkamen, veterinarian at Antwerp Zoo.
How the hippopotamus contracted the disease remains a mystery.
All zoo animals were tested for COVID-19 last year and no cases were found.
Hippopotamuses’ noses are usually wet, but Verkamin said he decided to test the thick liquid coming out as a precaution and was surprised by the result.
The hippo enclosure has been closed to visitors and will only reopen when the pair has tested negative.
All those working with them have tested negative for the virus and should wear masks and safety glasses and disinfect their shoes before approaching the animals.