We already know animals can get the coronavirus, and the lastest furry creatures to fall foul of COVID-19 are members of a troop of western lowland gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park in Escondido, California.
Last week, two of the gorillas started coughing and displaying other mild symptoms, said a news release from the zoo. A fecal exam later detected the coronavirus, and the results were confirmed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Veterinary Services Laboratories on Monday.
“Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” said zoo executive director Lisa Peterson. “The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery.”
The zoo also shared the news on their Facebook page, revealing that they suspect the gorillas caught the infection from an asymptomatic staff member. This is despite all recommended precautions and COVID-19 safety protocols from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) being followed, including wearing personal protective equipment whenever they were near the gorillas.
“We ask that you keep our troop and the incredible team of dedicated wildlife care professionals and veterinarians who serve them in your thoughts during this difficult time,” they concluded the post.
All eight gorillas are all believed to have caught the virus. They are being closely monitored and given fluids and vitamins, but the zoo told the AP they weren’t being specifically treated right now because symptoms are mild. However, experts are being consulted just in case. Zoo officials are trying to learn what they can to protect wild gorillas and have stepped up protective measures.
San Diego Zoo Global, the company that owns the park, says the infected gorillas pose no threat to the public. In any case, the park is currently closed to visitors, and even if it was operating as normal, it would be pretty difficult for a visitor to come in contact with a gorilla.
According to the news release, this is the first known natural transmission of the coronavirus to great apes. But in 2020, various other species were infected with COVID-19, including a 4-year-old Malayan tiger in New York and minks in Denmark, millions of which were killed when the government discovered they could carry the virus.