JAN 13, 2021 3:19 PM PST

San Diego Zoo's Gorillas Positive for COVID-19

WRITTEN BY: Tiffany Dazet

Earlier this week, the Associated Press reported that several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park tested positive for COVID-19. According to the AP, these are probably the first known cases among primates in the United States and the world.

A press release from San Diego Zoo Global states that two gorillas were coughing last week. Due to the virus's precarious nature, keepers collected fecal samples from the gorillas to test through the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System. The initial test detected the virus's presence, which was then confirmed this past Monday by the USDA's National Veterinary Services Laboratory. While not all of the gorillas were tested, the press release states that the SARS-CoV-2 virus might be present in troop other members as well.

According to the press release, although staff members have been following all recommended protocols to prevent virus transmission, it is likely that the gorillas became infected from an asymptomatic staff member. According to the AP, the park has been closed since early December as part of California's lockdown efforts. The press release states that non-human primates are susceptible to this particular virus, but this is the first documented instance of natural transmission.

Lisa Peters, the executive director of the Safari Park, stated, "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." The AP reports that the gorillas are being treated with vitamins, fluid, and food, but no specific virus treatment.

Science Magazine reports that human respiratory viruses are the leading cause of death in several chimp communities in the wild, causing 20% of deaths in mountain gorillas in Africa. According to Science Magazine, "the ape form of the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 receptor that the virus uses to enter cells is identical to the human one." The article also states that researchers in the wild are taking steps to protect endangered great apes in Africa and Asia.

Tony Goldberg, disease ecologist at the University of Wisconsin, stated to Science Magazine, "The fact that gorillas are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 should come as no surprise. Fortunately, gorillas at zoos have excellent medical care, and most will likely pull through due to the efforts of dedicated veterinarians. That's not the case for gorillas in the wild, though." He continues that because wild apes cannot social distance, it is crucial to keep the virus out of these populations.
 

Sources: Associated Press, San Diego Zoo Global, Science Magazine

About the Author
  • Tiffany grew up in Southern California, where she attended San Diego State University. She graduated with a degree in Biology with a marine emphasis, thanks to her love of the ocean and wildlife. With 13 years of science writing under her belt, she now works as a freelance writer in the Pacific Northwest.
You May Also Like
AUG 23, 2021
Plants & Animals
What Do Infants and Some Bats Have in Common? Baby Talk
AUG 23, 2021
What Do Infants and Some Bats Have in Common? Baby Talk
Saccopteryx bilineata is known as a communicative member of the sac-winged bat family. These animals use elaborate vocal ...
AUG 30, 2021
Plants & Animals
Using Sunflower Pollen to Create Ink For 3D Biomedical Printing
AUG 30, 2021
Using Sunflower Pollen to Create Ink For 3D Biomedical Printing
Most methods for manufacturing ink for 3D printers involve the addition of various materials to provide strength and str ...
SEP 10, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Wildfire Effects on Air Quality
SEP 10, 2021
Wildfire Effects on Air Quality
Wildfires are becoming a common occurrence in the Western US, and wildfires are expected to increase in severity and num ...
SEP 24, 2021
Chemistry & Physics
Protecting the Mango Plant with Signal Interference
SEP 24, 2021
Protecting the Mango Plant with Signal Interference
Researchers made huge steps in mitigating the virulence of a mango plant toxin by exploiting the bacteria and signal pat ...
OCT 02, 2021
Genetics & Genomics
After Mass Extinction, All Modern Snakes Evolved From Only a Few Survivors
OCT 02, 2021
After Mass Extinction, All Modern Snakes Evolved From Only a Few Survivors
Reporting in Nature Communications, scientists have suggested that every living snake on earth evolved from just a handf ...
OCT 12, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Is It the Junk [DNA] That Makes Our Brains Human?
OCT 12, 2021
Is It the Junk [DNA] That Makes Our Brains Human?
Scientists have long sought to understand what makes us human. From the standpoint of DNA sequences, we have a lot in co ...
Loading Comments...