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San Diego gorillas have COVID-19, marking first cases for primates

San Diego gorillas have COVID-19, marking first cases for primates
© Courtesy of the Little Rock Zoo

Several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have tested positive for COVID-19, the zoo announced Monday, marking the first known cases of the disease among primates other than humans.

The park's executive director told The Associated Press in a statement that eight gorillas living together in one exhibit all tested positive for the virus. Several are exhibiting symptoms such as a cough, she said, and they are believed to have contracted the virus from a keeper who was asymptomatic.

“Aside from some congestion and coughing, the gorillas are doing well,” Lisa Peterson told the AP, adding, “This is wildlife, and they have their own resiliency and can heal differently than we do."

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COVID-19 is known to have been transmitted in a handful of cases to animals such as mink, tigers, lions, and common household pets such as dogs and cats.

Last month, three snow leopards at a zoo in Kentucky tested positive for the virus while exhibiting mild symptoms.

Zoos across the country have closed to the public in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has made large crowds risky, particularly when indoors. Some, such as the San Antonio Zoo in Texas, have opted to open socially distanced experiences such as drive-thru safaris for guests.