Gorillas share 98% of DNA with humans, making them susceptible to many of the same viruses.
San Diego Zoo announced on Tuesday that two of their gorillas have tested positive for the coronavirus and other gorillas in the troop are showing symptoms.
“Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” said Lisa Peterson, executive director, San Diego Zoo Safari Park. “The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking.”
While only two of the eight gorillas tested positive, the zoo believes the entire troop has been exposed. Three are reportedly coughing and showing mild symptoms.
The gorillas were not tested by swabbing their nose, but through fecal samples. The zoo reported that they used fecal samples to test for “SARS-CoV-2 through the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System (CA HFS).”
The caretakers and veterinarians are keeping a close eye on the primates and offering them vitamins, fluids, and food. They believe the gorillas were infected by an asymptomatic wildlife care team member, who always wore a mask.
The zoo has been taking extra precautions for some time to protect the animals and their staff. “Biosecurity measures in place at the Park include the wearing of masks at all times, frequent hand washing, physical distancing, heightened cleaning protocols, dedicated overalls and uniforms for working around wildlife and limiting staff access to highly susceptible species. Our veterinarians and wildlife care staff will be vaccinated at the earliest opportunity, beginning with our veterinary team members who were recently approved to receive the vaccination.”
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Currently, there’s no approved vaccine for animals, but according to the zoo “vaccine development and testing is underway for some species.”
While these are the first known gorillas to get the virus, Peterson said, “This is wildlife, and they have their own resiliency and can heal differently than we do.”
“We are hopeful for a full recovery,” posted the zoo. “We ask that you keep our troop and the incredible team of dedicated wildlife care professionals and veterinarians who serve them in your thoughts during this difficult time.”
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