New Delhi: In a first, several gorillas at the United States’ San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for the coronavirus on Monday. This is believed to be the first known Covid cases among such primates globally. The park has been closed to the public since December 6 as part of the state of California’s lockdown efforts to curb coronavirus cases. Also Read - Coronavirus: Biden To Reinstate COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Lifted by Trump, Says White House Official

Speaking to the Associated Press, the parks executive director, Lisa Peterson, said that total eight gorillas that live together at the park are believed to have been infected with the virus as several have been coughing. Also Read - Moderna Coronavirus Vaccine Rarely Causes Anaphylaxis, Finds Report; Only 2.5 Severe Allergic Cases Per 1 Million People Vaccinated

Peterson said that the infection possibly came from a member of the parks wildlife care team who also tested positive for the virus but has been asymptomatic and wore a mask at all times around the gorillas. Also Read - This Country Has Imposed First COVID-19 Lockdown, 10,000 to Undergo Mandatory Testing

Veterinarians are closely monitoring the gorillas and they will remain in their habitat at the park, north of San Diego, Peterson said. For now, they are being given vitamins, fluid and food but no specific treatment for the virus.

“Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” Peterson said.

While other wildlife has contracted the coronavirus from minks to tigers, this is the first known instance of transmission to great apes and it is unknown if they will have any serious reaction.

Wildlife experts have expressed concern about the coronavirus infecting gorillas, an endangered species that share 98.4 percent of their DNA with humans and are inherently social animals.

The gorillas infected at the San Diego safari park are western lowland gorillas, whose population has declined by more than 60% over the last two decades because of poaching and disease, according to the World Wildlife Fund.

The safari park tested feces of the troop of gorillas after two apes began coughing January 6. Positive test results were confirmed by the US Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services Laboratories in three gorillas. Feces from all eight in the troop are being taken for testing.

Zoo officials are talking to experts who have been treating the coronavirus in humans in case the animals; develop more severe symptoms. They will remain together since separating them could be harmful to the gorillas that live in tight-knit groups.

“This is wildlife, and they have their own resiliency and can heal differently than we do,” Peterson said.

The safari park on Monday added more safety measures for its staff, including requiring face shields and eye goggles when working in contact with the animals.

The confirmation that gorillas are susceptible to the coronavirus contributes to information about how the pandemic may affect these species in their native habitats where they come into contact with humans and human materials, the park officials said.
San Diego Zoo Safari Park plans to share what it learns with health officials, conservationists and scientists to develop steps to protect gorillas in the forests of Africa.

(With Agency Inputs)