Two San Diego Zoo Safari Park gorillas test positive for coronavirus

Believed to be first transmission of virus to apes
Gorilla Troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Test Positive for COVID-19
Gorilla Troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park Test Positive for COVID-19
Posted at 4:15 PM, Jan 11, 2021

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Members of a gorilla troop at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus.

The zoo says two members of the troop began exhibiting a cough on Jan. 6. Zoo staff collected fecal samples from the gorillas and tested them for the virus.

Two days later, preliminary results showed the presence of COVID-19 in the gorilla troop. Those results were confirmed on Jan. 11. While the results only confirmed COVID-19 in two of the gorillas, the zoo says that doesn't rule out the virus in other members of the troop.

Both gorillas are expected to fully recover, the zoo said. But officials believe this to be the first known instance of transmission of the virus to great apes. Because of that, it's unclear how severe gorillas can react to the virus.

"Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well," said Lisa Peterson, executive director at San Diego Zoo Safari Park. "The troop remains quarantined together and are eating and drinking. We are hopeful for a full recovery."

The zoo believes the gorillas contracted the virus from an asymptomatic staff member, despite the zoo following coronavirus-related safety measures.

The zoo adds that staff members wear PPE gear when around the gorillas.

"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."

The San Diego Zoo and Safari Park locations have been closed to the public since Dec. 6 when California's regional stay-at-home order went into effect, closing zoos and aquariums.

This article was written by Mark Saunders for KGTV.