Several gorillas at San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus in what is believed to be the first known case among these primates in the United States and possibly around the world.
Park executive director Lisa Peterson said eight gorillas who live together in the park are carrying the virus and several are coughing.
It appears the infection came from a member of the park’s wildlife care team who also tested positive for the virus but was asymptomatic and was wearing a mask at all times around gorillas.
Members of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park gorilla troop, pictured, have tested positive for the SARS-CoV-2coronavirus which causes the Covid-19 disease
Park executive director Lisa Peterson said eight gorillas who live together in the park are believed to be carrying the virus and several are coughing.
Vets are keeping a close eye on the gorillas and they will stay in their habitat in the park north of San Diego, Peterson said. So far, they are receiving vitamins, fluids and food, but no specific treatment for the virus.
“Aside from a little congestion and cough, gorillas are fine,” said Peterson.
“The troops stay in quarantine together and eat and drink. We hope for a full recovery. “
While other wildlife have contracted the coronavirus from mink to tigers, this is the first known case of transmission to great apes and it is not known whether they will have a serious reaction.
Great apes continue to be observed closely by the veterinary team at the San Diego Zoo. Research studies have verified that some non-human primates are susceptible to infection
Wildlife experts have expressed concern over the coronavirus infecting gorillas, an endangered species that shares 98.4% of its DNA with humans and are inherently social animals.
The gorillas infected in the San Diego Safari Park are western lowland gorillas, whose populations have declined by more than 60% over the past two decades due to poaching and disease, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
The safari park tested the gorilla troop after two monkeys started coughing on January 6.
Zoo officials tested some of the fecal samples from the park’s gorillas and preliminary results two days later revealed the presence of the virus.
On Monday, the National Veterinary Services Laboratories of the US Department of Agriculture confirmed the positive results.
“The test results confirm the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in some gorillas and do not definitively exclude the presence of the virus in other members of the troop,” he said.
The test results were confirmed by the US Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories.
Zoo officials are speaking with experts who treat the coronavirus in humans in case the animals develop more severe symptoms.
It is not yet known whether the gorillas will have a serious reaction to the disease that has killed 1.94 million humans.
This is the first known case of natural transmission to great apes and it is not known if they will have a serious reaction
They will stay together as separating them could be harmful to gorillas who live in tightly knit groups.
“It’s about wildlife, and they have their own resilience and can heal differently than we do,” Peterson said.
The safari park on Monday added new precautionary measures for its staff, including requiring face shields and goggles when working in contact with animals.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park, where gorillas are kept, has been closed to visitors since early December as record cases began to cross southern California.
Workers are all required to wear personal protective equipment such as masks when around gorillas, the zoo said.
The San Diego Zoo, like many public facilities, has been closed to the public since December 6
The coronavirus has also been found in a number of other captive wildlife species, including several lions and tigers at the Bronx Zoo in New York City and four lions at the Barcelona Zoo in Spain.
But San Diego gorillas are believed to be the first known case of confirmed infection in monkeys.
The virus has also appeared in a number of domestic dogs and cats.
The USDA last month said it had confirmed the first known case of the coronavirus in a wild animal, a mink, following an outbreak in farmed mink that killed 15,000 of the animals.