Three western lowland gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Thursday, making them the world’s first-known great apes to contract the virus.
The gorillas, who live in a troop of eight, are expected to recover, says Lisa Peterson, executive director of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, in California. Caretakers have decided to keep all eight gorillas together and monitor them closely.
Two of the gorillas first began coughing on January 6. Zoo staff collected fecal samples and sent them to the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System. That lab and the USDA’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories (NVSL) confirmed the infection on January 11.
The three gorillas, whom the zoo is not naming, are still showing symptoms. Some have runny noses and are lethargic. “Everybody is a little more tempered in their activities,” Peterson says, “but they’re getting fluids and eating well.”
This news confirms earlier research that critically endangered western lowland gorillas—along with several other rare or endangered species of apes—are particularly susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.
Gorillas are the seventh animal species to have contracted the virus naturally, following confirmed infections in tigers, lions, mink, snow leopards, dogs, and domestic cats. While there are documented cases of mink-to-human transmission in the Netherlands and Denmark, there is no evidence that the other species can make humans sick. (NNT World)