Ape at San Diego park improving after virus
By Julie Watson
The Associated Press
January 28, 2021
SAN DIEGO (AP) — A troop of gorillas at San Diego Zoo Safari
Park appears to be recovering from the coronavirus — including a
49-year-old silverback who received antibody therapy — in what
is believed to be the first known cases among such primates.
The western lowland gorillas were infected with a variant
that has been circulating in California and is believed to be
more contagious than other strains, the safari park said in a
statement. Some gorillas showed symptoms including mild
coughing, congestion, and intermittent lethargy.
The silverback, named Winston, had pneumonia, likely caused
by the virus, as well as heart disease. He has been more active
since being put on antibiotics and heart medication, and
receiving an antibody treatment — a therapy to block the virus
from infecting cells, San Diego Zoo Safari Park said in a
"We’re not seeing any of that lethargy. No coughing, no runny
noses anymore," the park’s executive director, Lisa Peterson,
told the San Diego Union-Tribune, adding that the
animals’ fecal matter is no longer testing positive for the
virus. "It feels to us like we’ve turned the corner."
Officials tested the troop of gorillas after two apes began
coughing on January 6. Positive test results were confirmed by
the U.S Department of Agriculture National Veterinary Services
Laboratories in three gorillas.
The apes were likely exposed by a zookeeper who tested
positive for COVID-19 in early January, officials said. The park
north of San Diego has been closed to the public as part of
California’s lockdown efforts to curb coronavirus cases, and the
park’s wildlife care team wore masks at all times around the
Veterinarians are preparing to inject gorillas at the San
Diego Zoo with a COVID-19 vaccine, a supply made specifically
for animals. They also plan to vaccinate other species believed
susceptible to infection, such as felines. Wildlife in other
locations — from minks to tigers — have gotten the virus.
The gorillas at the safari park will not be vaccinated for
now since they have been exposed.
San Diego Zoo Global, which oversees the zoo and the safari
park, plans to share what it has learned with other scientists
with the hope that it will contribute to the understanding of
how the virus can affect apes.
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