DALLAS — Five asymptomatic western lowland gorillas have tested positive for COVID-19, according to the Dallas Zoo.
Zoo officials say Shana, B’Wenzi, Marcus, Asha, and Shanta have tested positive as part of routine testing of animals.
They are not “showing any clinical signs of illness,” a zoo Facebook post said.
“These results are pending confirmation from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL),” the post said. “All other gorillas have so far tested negative.”
From the Dallas Zoo Facebook release:
Great apes and big cats are known to be at risk of COVID-19 infection, which is why the Dallas Zoo has regularly tested these animals throughout the pandemic and had instituted strict protocols to protect them against any potential exposure. Treatment is not needed at this time, since the gorillas are not showing symptoms, but both troops will be closely monitored by our zoologists and veterinarians and will be tested every few days until they have cleared the virus.
These infections occurred in an area of the Zoo where COVID-19 protocols are already the most rigorous. Zoologists are tested weekly before entering these areas for their shifts and use extensive PPE (including fit-tested N95 masks). We will continue these protocols, along with increased testing for staff to ensure they remain protected as well.
While humans are known to be able to transmit the virus to animals such as gorillas — and these cases have occurred at other zoos — there is currently no data to suggest that zoo animals can transmit the virus to humans. Regardless, Dallas Zoo visitors do not pose a transmission threat to the gorillas, or vice versa, given the distance between the areas used by guests and the animals’ habitats.
While we are concerned about these preliminary test results, we are encouraged by the fact that the gorillas are not showing symptoms. Our animal care staff is prepared to provide treatment if that changes, and we will continue to take every precaution available to keep our staff, guests, and animals safe and healthy.