- The gorillas, who live in a group of eight, have been coughing since January 6. They are showing symptoms – some lethargic and have runny noses.
- The infection was said to have come from one of the park’s wildlife care staff who tested positive for the virus.
- Wildlife experts are concerned about gorillas getting infected with the virus, given that they are already an endangered species that share almost 99 percent of their DNA with humans.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed that several western lowland gorillas kept at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for COVID-19. The gorillas, who live in a group of eight, have been coughing since January 6. They are showing symptoms – some lethargic and have runny noses.
When two of the gorillas started coughing, the zoo staff collected fecal samples and sent them to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System.
On January 11, the lab and the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirmed the infection.
Lisa Peterson, the park’s executive director, said that they expect the gorillas to recover.
“Everybody is a little more tempered in their activities,” Peterson says, “but they’re getting fluids and eating well,” she said.
The infection was said to have come from one of the park’s wildlife care staff who tested positive for the virus. The member has since been asymptomatic and wore a mask all the time, including during his time with the gorillas.
Earlier research stated that western lowland gorillas, along with other rare or endangered species, are particularly vulnerable to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Harris Lewin, a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of California, said that “The potential for COVID-like disease outbreak in either captive or wild populations of endangered primates is pretty high.”
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has been closed to the public since December 6 as part of the state of California’s lockdown efforts to curb coronavirus cases.
Officials at the zoo are consulting experts who have been treating coronavirus cases among animals in case the gorillas develop more severe symptoms.
The park also added more safety measures for its staff, which include wearing face shields and eye goggles when working closely with the animals.
Wildlife experts are concerned about gorillas getting infected with the virus, given that they are already an endangered species that share almost 99 percent of their DNA with humans. The population of Western lowland gorillas has decreased by more than 60 percent over the past two decades due to disease and poaching, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
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