On Monday it was confirmed that up to eight gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park have contracted the coronavirus. Save the Orangutan is following the development closely.

Ever since the outbreak of the corona pandemic, experts and NGO’s have expressed concern about the risk of the corona virus infecting our close relatives – the great apes. Therefore, during last spring, Save the Orangutan and our Indonesian partners took immediate safeguarding actions at the rehabilitation centres and initiated efforts to prevent and minimize COVID-19 in communities close to the centres and in and around the forest areas where wild orangutans live.

Now, the first known case of COVID-19 among great apes has been confirmed as gorillas tested positive at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. The zoo confirms the news in a press release.

When several gorillas started coughing, it was decided to take their faeces for testing. The laboratory analyses showed a positive test result of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 for several of the gorillas. However, it is likely that the entire troop may be infected.

Read: COVID-19 & the critically endangered orangutan

Save the Orangutan follows the development closely

At Save the Orangutan we are very aware of what is happening at the San Diego Zoo:

“We know that great apes are vulnerable to many of diseases in humans. Now it has been confirmed that they also can contract the new coronavirus and that is of course worrying,” says Hanne Gürtler, director at Save the Orangutan.

Although the gorillas are all expected to recover, it is not yet known how the virus eventually might affect them.

“It is crucial how the gorillas react to the virus and how ill they become. We will follow the development of the situation in San Diego very closely and learn from it in regards to the more than 400 orphaned orangutans at the rehabilitation centres in Borneo,” says Hanne Gürtler.

Safeguarding actions to protect the orangutans

When the pandemic hit Indonesia, a number of safeguarding actions were taken at the rehabilitation centres for orphaned and displaced orangutans to protect staff and orangutans from the virus.

Save the Orangutan and our partners also initiated a major effort against COVID-19 in a large number of communities in Borneo to prevent orangutans and locals from contracting the virus. All the included communities are either close to areas where wild orangutans live or close to the rehabilitation centres.

Read: Here are our efforts against COVID-19

Through these efforts, the locals were informed about how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, as well as what to do if experiencing symptoms. Meanwhile, COVID-19 testing was carried out and hygiene items and protective equipment were distributed in the communities.

“The results of the effort were very positive. However, the pandemic is far from over and, therefore, we initiated an additional effort already in December based on our previous results. These efforts have become ever more important to carry out now, due to the threat of the new and more contagious variants of the virus,” says Hanne Gürtler and adds:

“The case of the infected gorillas clearly indicate that these efforts are very important. We are keeping a close eye on the effect the corona virus has on the gorillas and have an emergency plan ready in case the virus after all would reach the orangutans.”

(Picture source: Pixabay)