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Gorillas Back In Action At San Diego Zoo Safari Park After Bout With COVID-19

Winston the gorilla is seen at the San Diego Zoo in this undated photo.
San Diego Zoo Global
Winston the gorilla is seen at the San Diego Zoo in this undated photo.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park visitors can once again see the eight gorillas who live there, now that they have fully recovered from a bout with COVID-19, officials said.

Visits to the exhibit were restricted for more than a month after three of the Safari Park's gorillas tested positive in January for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID. The exhibit has fully reopened, the zoo announced Saturday.

"We're so grateful for the outpouring concern and support we've received while the troop safely recovered," said Lisa Peterson, executive director of the park, 10News reported Monday. "We're thrilled to share the joy that this beloved troop brings to our community and to our guests."


Officials believe the apes contracted the virus from a zoo worker who carried it but was asymptomatic. It is believed to be the first case of transmission of the disease from a human to an ape.

Zoologists at San Diego Zoo Global treated the gorillas with help from professionals with the San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency, UC San Diego Health, Rady Children's Hospital-San Diego, Scripps Research Institute and multiple state, federal and Illinois and Georgia-based zoological organizations. Treatments for the oldest gorilla, named Winston, included an experimental monoclonal antibody therapy, from a supply that could not be used on people.

Winston, whose symptoms included a cough and lethargy, was examined under anesthesia due to his advanced age, and veterinarians confirmed he had pneumonia and heart disease.

All visitors to the zoo and to the safari park must make reservations online in advance for each person in their party.

The work of San Diego Zoo Global includes on-site wildlife conservation efforts at the San Diego Zoo, San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents.