By Sian Elvin, Metro UK
SEVERAL gorillas have coronavirus in what is thought to be the first known cases among primates in the world.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has seen eight gorillas that live together test positive for Covid-19, with several of them coughing.
They believe 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.
“Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” the park’s executive director, Lisa Peterson, said.
“The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery.”
Vets are monitoring the gorillas and they will remain in their enclosure at the park, which is north of San Diego.
So far they are being given vitamins, fluid and food but no specific treatment for the virus.
Although other wildlife is known to have contracted coronavirus, including minks and tigers, this is thought to be the first known transmission to gorillas in the world.
It is unknown what kind of reaction they could have to the virus and wildlife experts have previously expressed concern about what effect it could have – as they share 98.4% of their DNA with humans.
The gorillas at the San Diego safari park are western lowland gorillas, which are critically endangered and the population has declined by more than 60% over the last 20 years.
The safari park tested some faecal samples of the gorillas after two of the troop started coughing on January 6. The US Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories yesterday confirmed the positive results.
“The test results confirm the presence of SARS-CoV-2 in some of the gorillas and does not definitively rule out the presence of the virus in other members of the troop,” it said.
Zoo staff say they are talking to experts who have been treating Covid-19 in humans, in case the gorillas develop more severe symptoms.
“This is wildlife, and they have their own resiliency and can heal differently than we do,” Peterson said. The group will be kept together since separating them could be harmful to their community dynamic.
Top: The San Diego Zoo Safari Park has seen eight gorillas which live together test positive for coronavirus Photo: San Diego Zoo Global / EPA and published by Metro UK
Below: They have been coughing but are otherwise doing well Photo: San Diego Zoo Global / EPA and published by Metro UK