SAN DIEGO, 12 Jan 2021:
Gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have been diagnosed with Covid-19 in what could be the first known case of natural transmission of the coronavirus to great apes, the authorities of the facility said yesterday.
California governor Gavin Newsom was the first to bring the matter up at his regular conference where he reports on the state of the pandemic.
Lisa Peterson, executive director of San Diego Zoo Safari Park, said in a statement yesterday that “aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well. The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery.”
It was not specified how many gorillas had contracted the virus, but “some” had tested positive on Jan 8, two days after two members of the group began coughing.
“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.”
The zoo does not know how the gorillas were infected, but suspect it was through an asymptomatic staff member, despite following recommended precautions and the wearing of personal protective equipment.
According to the zoo, this is the first known case of natural transmission of the coronavirus to great apes and it is unknown if they will have any serious reaction.
“For almost one year, our team members have been working tirelessly, with the utmost determination to protect each other and the wildlife in our care from this highly contagious virus,” said Peterson. “The safety of our staff and the wildlife in our care remains our number one priority.”
Since March last year, the zoo has coordinated with agriculture authorities and with the American Zoological Association to protect fauna from the dangers of the pandemic. The zoo has been closed to the public since Dec 6.