San Diego (Associated Press)-Several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus, which is believed to be the first known case of such a primate in the United States and the world.
The executive director of the park, Lisa Peterson, told the Associated Press on Monday that eight gorillas believed to have been living together in the park have been infected with the virus, and several of them have coughed.
It appears that the infection came from a member of the park’s wildlife care team. The member also tested positive for the virus but had no symptoms and always wore a mask around the gorillas. Since December 6, the park has been closed to the public as part of California̵
Peterson said that veterinarians are closely monitoring the gorillas and they will stay in their habitat in San Diego North Park. Currently, they are given vitamins, liquids and food, but there is no special treatment for the virus.
Peterson said: “Except for some crowding and coughing, the gorilla is doing pretty well.”
Although other wild animals and plants have transmitted the coronavirus from mink to tiger, this is the first known example of transmission to great apes, and it is not clear whether they will have a serious reaction.
Wildlife experts expressed concern about the coronavirus infection of gorillas. The gorilla is an endangered species that shares 98.4% of its DNA with humans and is a social animal itself.
According to the World Wildlife Fund, the gorilla infected in the San Diego Wildlife Park is a western lowland gorilla. Due to poaching and disease, its population has fallen by more than 60% in the past two decades.
On January 6, after two apes started coughing, the safari park tested the feces of the gorilla team. The National Veterinary Services Laboratory of the United States Department of Agriculture confirmed positive test results for three gorillas. The feces of all eight people in the army will be tested.
Zoo officials are talking to experts who treat human coronaviruses to prevent animals from showing more severe symptoms. They will stay together because separating them can be harmful to gorillas living in close groups.
Peterson said: “These are wild animals and plants. They have their own resilience and can heal differently from us.”
Monday’s safari park added more safety measures for employees, including wearing masks and goggles when in contact with animals.
Park officials said the confirmation that gorillas are susceptible to coronavirus will help people understand how the pandemic may affect these species in their natural habitats in contact with humans and human material.
The San Diego Zoo Safari Park plans to share knowledge learned with health officials, conservationists and scientists to develop steps to protect African forest gorillas.