Several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus in what is believed to be the first known cases among such primates
The park’s executive director, Lisa Peterson, told The Associated Press on Monday that eight gorillas that live together at the park are believed to have the virus and several have been coughing.
It appears the infection came from a member of the park’s wildlife care team who also tested positive for the virus but has been asymptomatic and wore a mask at all times around the gorillas. The park has been closed to the public since Dec. 6 as part of the state of California’s lockdown efforts to curb coronavirus cases.
“Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” Peterson said.
While other wildlife has contracted the coronavirus from minks to tigers, this is the first known instance of transmission to great apes and it is unknown if they will have any serious reaction.
The gorillas infected at the San Diego safari park are western lowland gorillas, whose population has declined by more than 60% over the last two decades because of poaching and disease, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
The safari park tested the troop of gorillas after two apes began coughing Jan. 6. The test results were confirmed by the U.S Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories.
“This is wildlife, and they have their own resiliency 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 eye goggles when working in contact with the animals.