Well-Being Prevention & Cures

13 gorillas in US zoo test positive for COVID-19

Story at a glance

  • Zoo Atlanta is treating a group of western lowland gorillas who recently tested positive for COVID-19.
  • The zoo said in a statement Friday that teams are collecting samples from the zoo’s entire gorilla population after staff noticed the animals exhibiting symptoms.
  • As the gorillas recover, they will begin receiving the Zoetis vaccine.

Zoo Atlanta is reportedly treating more than a dozen western lowland gorillas who recently tested positive for COVID-19. 

The zoo said in a statement Friday that teams are collecting samples from the zoo’s entire gorilla population — which includes 20 members in four troops — after staff noticed the animals exhibiting symptoms, including coughing, nasal discharge and minor changes in appetite. Zoo officials told The Atlanta Journal Constitution (AJC) 13 gorillas tested positive for the virus. 

The positive samples were sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, for confirmation.


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“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,” Sam Rivera, Senior Director of Animal Health, said in a statement on Friday. 

“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.”

Animal Care and Veterinary Teams at the zoo believe that the virus was transmitted through a fully vaccinated, asymptomatic team member who was wearing personal protective equipment, adding that “the infections occurred in an area of the Zoo where COVID safety protocols are already at their most stringent.”


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The zoo said that while humans can transmit the virus to gorillas, data does not suggest the virus can spread from gorillas to humans. 

As the gorillas recover, they will begin receiving the Zoetis vaccine, a COVID-19 vaccination designed for animals, according to the zoo. At-risk gorillas at the facility, including 60-year-old Ozzie, who is the oldest male gorilla in captivity, are being treated with monoclonal antibodies. 

“We don’t feel that we’re out of the woods,” Rivera told AJC. “We’re taking it on a day by day basis.”


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