Photo by Kansas City Zoo

October 9, 2021

The Kansas City Zoo has received confirmation that one of their Western lowland gorillas recently had SARSCoV2, the Delta variant of the virus known as COVID-19.

The other five gorillas that make up the zoo’s troop, are presumed to also be positive though they are awaiting official test results. While all the gorillas have shown symptoms of the virus, some have already returned to normal while the others continue to respond to treatment and are improving.

The gorillas’ care specialists first noticed that Charlie gorilla did not appear to be feeling well on Sept. 22 and then began coughing on Sept. 25. The veterinary health team immediately began treatment but within 72 hours, additional gorillas had begun to develop symptoms including loss of appetite, coughing, and lethargy.

On Sept. 27, fecal samples were sent to an outside laboratory where they tested as presumptive positive. Per protocol, the samples were then sent to the National Veterinary Services Laboratory for confirmation of SARSCoV2, which they received for Charlie this week.

All the gorillas have been treated with supportive care medications including expectorants, Vitamin C, Zinc, and ibuprofen as needed. Though the zoo has determined that all the great apes, including gorillas, will receive the Zoetis vaccine for COVID-19, they have not yet received the doses of the vaccine.

The Zoetis vaccine was specifically developed for use with animals and research shows it is safe.

As always, the top priority of the Kansas City Zoo is the health and safety of the animals, guests, and staff. As the COVID-19 pandemic progressed, the zoo implemented protocols to keep susceptible animals and their caregivers safe. While they do not know exactly how the gorillas came to be infected, they have worked to minimize the risk through limited contact and the use of appropriate PPE. Zoo visitors are at minimal to no risk because of the distance between guest viewing areas and the gorillas’ habitat.