Multiple gorillas at the Atlanta Zoo have tested positive for Covid-19. Fox 5 reports that the zoo has received presumably positive test results suggesting Ozzie, a 350-pound silverback, and other members of its western lowland gorilla population have Covid-19. Ozzie is the world’s oldest male gorilla at around 60 years old, and he has fathered two gorillas at the Zoo Atlanta.
The gorillas were tested for Covid after members of the zoo’s Gorilla Care Team observed coughing, nasal discharge, and changes in appetite in some of the gorillas. After noticing the symptoms, the zoo submitted samples to the University of Georgia’s Athens Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, where they were found to be positive. However, the zoo is now waiting for confirmation from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa. Zoo officials are currently treating the gorillas who are in danger of developing problems and testing all the gorillas at the zoo, regardless of their symptoms.
Doctor of Veterinary Medicine and Director of Animal Health Sam Rivera stated that “the teams are very closely monitoring the affected gorillas and are hopeful they will make a complete recovery. They are receiving the best possible care, and we are prepared to provide additional supportive care should it become necessary.” He went on to say, “we are very concerned that these infections occurred, especially given that our safety protocols when working with great apes and other susceptible animal species are, and throughout the pandemic have been, extremely rigorous.”
Although zoo officials are unsure how the gorillas got sick, they suspect it was caused by an asymptomatic member of the care staff who tested positive for Covid-19. They also said the team member was fully vaccinated and wearing PPE when they arrived for work. While there have been examples of humans spreading Covid to animals at other zoos, officials claim there’s no evidence that zoo animals can transmit the virus to humans and that the gorillas do not present a risk to visitors.
The Atlanta Zoo has been permitted to use the Zoetis vaccine, a Covid-19 vaccine designed particularly for animals. Officials say the vaccines will be administered to the gorillas as they recuperate. The Detroit zoo recently vaccinated several of their animals against Covid-19, and earlier this year, otters at the Georgia Aquarium tested positive for Covid.