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Coronavirus

Gorillas Test Positive for Coronavirus at San Diego Zoo Safari Park

By Ron Brackett

January 12, 2021

At a Glance

  • COVID-19 was detected among eight western lowland gorillas at the safari park.
  • The park said it is the first known instance of natural transmission of the new coronavirus to great apes.
  • The gorillas are the seventh animal species documented to contract COVID-19.
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Several members of a troop of gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the new coronavirus.

The infection among the eight critically endangered western lowland gorillas is the first known instance of natural transmission of COVID-19 to great apes, according to the park.

“Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” the park's executive director, Lisa Peterson, said in a statement. “The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery.”

Park officials suspect the gorillas were infected by an asymptomatic staff member, despite the staffer following COVID-19 safety protocols and wearing personal protective equipment when near the gorillas.

(MORE: COVID-19 Vaccine Can Still Fight Coronavirus Mutations, Study Suggests)

Two of the gorillas began coughing on Jan. 6, so park staffers tested fecal samples. Preliminary results on Jan. 8 detected the coronavirus, the park said, and the U.S Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed the positive results on Monday.

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The park added more safety measures for its staff, including requiring face shields and goggles when working in contact with the animals, the Associated Press reported.

Members of the gorilla troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, Californiaa, are seen in their habitat on Sunday, January 10, 2021. Several gorillas at the zoo have tested positive for the coronavirus in what is believed to be the first known cases among such primates in the United States and possibly the world. (Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo Safari Park via AP)
Members of the gorilla troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, California, are seen in their habitat on Sunday, Jan. 10, 2021. Several gorillas at the zoo have tested positive for the coronavirus in what is believed to be the first known cases among such primates in the United States and possibly the world.
(Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo Safari Park via AP)

The safari park has been closed to the public since California reinstituted stay-at-home orders on Dec. 6.

Coronavirus infections have been found in tigers, lions, mink, snow leopards, dogs and domestic cats, according to National Geographic. Cases of mink-to-human transmission have been documented in the Netherlands and Denmark, but there is no evidence that the other species can infect humans.

Earlier research had found that western lowland gorillas and several other rare or endangered apes are particularly susceptible to the novel coronavirus, the National Geographic reported.

Western lowland gorillas are critically endangered, and their population has declined by more than 60% over the last 25 years because of poaching and disease, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

For the latest coronavirus information in your county and a full list of important resources to help you make the smartest decisions regarding the disease, check out our dedicated COVID-19 page.

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.

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