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Several gorillas at the San Diego zoo safari park have tested positive for coronavirus, with some experiencing symptoms, in what is believed to be the first outbreak among such primates in captivity.
The park’s executive director, Lisa Peterson, told the Associated Press on Monday that eight gorillas who live together at the park are believed to have the virus and several have been coughing. Gavin Newsom, California’s governor, confirmed at his Monday news briefing that at least two gorillas had tested positive while three were symptomatic.
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. The safari park confirmed the presence of Covid-19 through fecal samples from the gorillas, and the test results do not “definitively rule out the presence of the virus in other members of the troop”, the zoo said in a statement.
Veterinarians are closely monitoring the gorillas, who will remain in their habitat at the park, north of San Diego, according to Peterson. “Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” she said. “The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery.”
Inter-species transmission has long been an area of concern with Covid-19, which the Centers for Disease Control says probably originated from a bat. It remains unclear which animals can get infected, with a small number of pet dogs and cats reported to have gotten sick in some countries, including the US.
In zoos, large cats have been the most common animal to get infected. A four-year-old Malayan tiger named Nadia tested positive at the Bronx zoo in New York in April, and shortly afterward, three other tigers and three lions at the zoo tested positive as well. Bashir, an 11-year-old Malayan tiger at the Knoxville zoo in Tennessee, tested positive for coronavirus in October and went into quarantine with the Malayan tigers Arya, 6, and Tanvir, 11, who were also displaying mild coughing, lethargy and a decrease in appetite. Last month, NeeCee, a five-year-old snow leopard at the Louisville zoo in Kentucky, tested positive.
All have recovered.
The gorilla cases are believed to be the first reported from a zoo in the US and possibly the world. For now, the San Diego park’s wildlife team is closely monitoring their behavior. They are being given vitamins, fluid and food but no specific treatment for the virus.
The zoo officials are working closely with experts who have been treating the coronavirus in humans in case the animals develop more severe symptoms.
“This is wildlife, and they have their own resiliency and can heal differently than we do,” Peterson said, adding that for now the focus was on keeping them “healthy and thriving”.
Newsom, who referred to the gorillas as “our beloved gorillas”, wished the zoo “the best of the best”.
The Associated Press contributed reporting
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Gorillas at San Diego Zoo test positive for Covid in apparent first | San Diego