DALLAS — The Dallas Zoo said Wednesday five of its western lowland gorillas have tested positive for COVID-19 but were asymptomatic.
Zoo officials said as a part of routine testing for all the animals, preliminary results showed Shana, B’Wenzi, Marcus, Asha, and Shanta tested positive for the virus but were not showing any clinical signs of illness.
These results are pending confirmation from the National Veterinary Services Laboratory (NVSL), the Dallas Zoo said. All other gorillas from the zoo have tested negative so far.
The Dallas Zoo said great apes and big cats are known to be at risk of catching COVID-19, which is why the officials have regularly tested these animals throughout the pandemic. The Dallas Zoo has also instituted strict protocols to protect them against any potential exposure.
Treatment is not needed at this time, officials said, since the gorillas are not showing symptoms. The gorillas will be closely monitored by zoologists and veterinarians. They will be tested every few days until they have cleared the virus.
Zoologists are tested weekly before entering these areas where the gorillas live and employees use fit-tested N95 masks. The Dallas Zoo said members will continue these protocols along with increased testing for staff.
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, Zoo officials said. Dallas Zoo visitors do not pose a transmission threat to the gorillas, given the distance between the areas used by guests and the animals’ habitats.
While Dallas Zoo officials say they are concerned about these positive COVID-19 test results, they are encouraged by the fact the gorillas are not showing symptoms.
The team's animal care staff is prepared to provide treatment if that changes, and the Dallas Zoo said it will "continue to take every precaution available to keep its staff, guests, and animals safe."
This isn't the first time the Dallas Zoo has been in the news because of something that happened in relation to its gorillas.
In 2009, the Dallas City Council unanimously approved a $500,000 lawsuit settlement with two families attacked in 2004 by Dallas Zoo gorilla Jabari.
The two families involved split the settlement payment. During a 40-minute rampage, Jabari, who had escaped from his habitat, bit and hit members of the two families, who were touring the zoo.
Dallas police ultimately shot and killed the gorilla.
Then later in 2017, the Dallas Zoo silverback gorilla Zola went viral online for twirling and dancing while in a pool.
The video had more than a million views on multiple online platforms.
In November 2021, the Dallas Zoo released information about the possible cause of death for two of its giraffes that recently died.
Jesse, a 14-year-old giraffe, died in October, "despite aggressive treatment and heroic efforts by animal care staff," the zoo said. A few days earlier from that report, 19-year-old giraffe Auggie died "after dealing with age-related health issues that led to liver failure."
The zoo said the two deaths were possibly related, but not related to COVID-19.