Featured image courtesy of Zoo Atlanta.
Last Friday, September 10th, Zoo Atlanta announced its first positive test of a western lowland Gorilla after employees noticed abnormal symptoms. After this first reporting, the zoo hoped to acquire a veterinary COVID-19 vaccine for the rest of the primates. By this Tuesday, 18 of the 20 gorillas that are currently housed at Zoo Atlanta have now tested positive for COVID-19. Among those infected with COVID-19 is the oldest male gorilla in captivity, Ozzie, who is 60 years old.
Of these 18 positive cases, Zoo Atlanta has confirmed that four of the samples from the gorillas have tested positive for the Delta variant. The gorillas are believed to have initially contracted the virus from an asymptomatic employees that is in close contact with the gorillas. This employee had been fully vaccinated and wore the required PPE, which includes masks and gloves.
Sam Rivera, Zoo Atlanta’s Senior Director of Animal Health, states that the zoo will vaccinate the gorillas, along with other animals including Bornean and Sumatran orangutans; Sumatran tigers; African lions; and the clouded leopard.
Currently, the gorillas are being treated with monoclonal antibodies to mitigate the risk of developing further complications from the virus. Zoo Atlanta also notes that there is no evidence that great apes can pass the virus back to humans. The zoo also explains that guests should not fear transmission threats to or from the gorillas due to the distance between the areas used by guests and the habitats.
The teams are closely monitoring the infected gorillas and will continue to provide updates.