By Rachael Bale, ANIMALS Executive Editor
We have another coronavirus first: Two cats in New York state are the first in the U.S. to test positive for the virus. The owner of one had been diagnosed with COVID-19, but no one in the household of the second cat had tested positive, so we don’t yet know where it came from. The good news: They both had only mild illnesses and are expected to be just fine.
Before you get too worried, keep in mind that cases of pet cats getting coronavirus are very rare: In the entire world, there are only three confirmed cases of cats getting sick and two confirmed cases of dogs. And there is no evidence the disease could spread in the opposite direction, from cats to humans. (Pictured: a cat being looked over at the San Diego Humane Society on Tuesday).
To keep them healthy, treat your pets just as you would with any family member: If someone in your household is sick, they should isolate themselves. Make sure your pet maintains social distancing too—the CDC recommends they shouldn’t interact with anyone outside your household. And if you have a dog, when you go out on walks, both of you should stay six feet away from other people and animals.
We also learned yesterday that four more tigers and three lions at the Bronx Zoo also have the virus, bringing the total infected to eight big cats.
Scientists have been working hard to determine what other species are potentially susceptible to the coronavirus, but there’s still so much we don’t know. We’ll continue to follow it closely, so stay tuned.
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Your Instagram photo of the day
Fins to my left, fins to my right: Blacktip reef sharks swim into the current as the tide drives water into Aldabra’s Manhattan-size lagoon. This remote atoll belongs to the Seychelles, and sharks are unbelievably abundant. “Photographing there is almost like traveling back in time,” says photographer Thomas Peschak.
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Today in a minute
Joe Exotic’s troubled tigers: A sanctuary took in 39 caged big cats from the enterprise of the now-jailed Tiger King, but trouble has followed the felines from Oklahoma to the Colorado prairie. The coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the finances of the 789-acre Wild Animal Sanctuary, reducing both financial donations and food deliveries, the Washington Post reports. Fireball, Pearl, and Enzo are among the 550 critters at the sanctuary’s two facilities.
Saved: For centuries, explorers noted the tiny foxes of California’s Channel Islands. Their numbers were falling so fast in the 1990s that biologists reluctantly captured some to breed. Now, thanks to the efforts of two conservationists and several agencies, the foxes are back—but not before golden eagles that preyed on them had been removed, and 5,036 flora-destroying feral pigs (which attracted the eagles) were killed. Now the islands are lush again, writes Michael Parfit for Nat Geo.
‘The new cool’: In India, many people were fearful of the tens of millions of “indie” dogs that roamed the streets. Some spread disease in a land where 20,000 people die annually of rabies. But animal rights activists note that a new kindness is creeping in—and an openness toward adoptions, writes Deepa Lakshmin for Nat Geo.
A sea turtle comeback: With Thailand’s resort beaches suddenly free of tourists, some wildlife is booming. Thailand is reporting the largest number of turtle nests in two decades on some of its beaches. "Not just sea turtles, but other marine species such as dolphins and dugong that live in the region have also increased in numbers," marine specialist Kanokwan Homcha-ai tells CNN.
The big takeaway
Illuminating: “Not every illustration in David Sibley’s new book What It’s Like to Be a Bird is a masterpiece, but most of the large format paintings found inside are absolutely gorgeous and you’ll find yourself often thinking, ‘I want this on my wall.’” That’s the headline from Martin Gamache of Nat Geo’s graphics team. He goes on: “This art is what makes his new coffee table bird book so tempting, even for non-bird watchers.” Sibley provides bird portraits, fascinating anecdotes on bird behavior and biology alongside more technical scientific illustrations. Everything appears in vibrant, saturated colors that will leave even the most jaded HD screen-staring home office dweller drooling on the pages. “There is nothing like a thick sheet of paper printed in high quality ink,” writes Gamache, “to get you excited about birds.” Apart from the visuals, the nuggets in the narrative are arresting. For example, who knew Aesop’s was right about crows? “The smartest one (New Caledonian) shows a level of comprehension equal to that of a 5- to-7-year-old human child," Gamache writes.
In a few words
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In butterfly heaven: From the 9,100-foot summit of California’s Castle Peak, the world is an orange haze—at first thousands, then tens or even hundreds of thousands of fluttering butterflies. From this vantage point, it seems improbable that the number of insects in the world are declining drastically. But they are, writes Elizabeth Kolbert, probably even around your home. “They maintain the world as we know it,” Kolbert writes for May’s issue of National Geographic. “Without insects to pollinate them, most flowering plants, from daisies to dogwoods, would die out.” (Pictured: the one-inch-wide Xerces blue butterfly, last seen in the dunes around San Francisco nearly 80 years ago.)
Subscriber exclusive: Where have all the insects gone?