Gorillas in San Diego Zoo on the Mend after Catching COVID-19

The troop's silverback was given antibody treatment to help his recovery.
Fabienne Lang

Not a huge amount of information is known about what implications COVID-19 has on animals, but it certainly is impacting some of them. 

Gorillas at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park were diagnosed with COVID-19 earlier this month after potentially contracting the virus from asymptomatic keepers. Now, the Zoo has announced that all the troop is in recovery, and its silverback gorilla, Winston, had to receive antibody treatment. 


The eight member-strong troop "is eating, drinking, interacting and on their way to a full recovery," read the San Diego Zoo press release. A number of wildlife care professionals, veterinarians, as well as colleagues, and partners all came together to help these gorillas recover. 

A few members of the gorilla troop had originally shown signs of "mild coughing, congestion, nasal discharge, and intermittent lethargy," explained the zoo.

Gorillas in San Diego Zoo on the Mend after Catching COVID-19
Two of the troop's members. Source: Christina Simmons/San Diego Zoo Safari Park

Due to worries about his old age and underlying medical conditions, the troop's silverback Winston underwent his treatment under full anesthesia. While he was examined, the team confirmed he had heart disease and pneumonia. Winston was given monoclonal antibody therapy from a supply not suitable for humans to help his recovery.

As the zoo explained, this type of monoclonal antibody therapy is believed to be effective in minimizing the virus' effects. The team treating Winston attributes his recovery to this antibody treatment. 

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While this is a good day for the gorillas and the zoo in question, there's still a way to go before we can have a better understanding of the impact of COVID-19 on animals.

Working together with national leaders in the medical, scientific, zoological, and public health communities, the zoo's team is confident the ongoing analysis and work from these gorillas will help create a stronger understanding of the impact of the virus on animals and humans. 

With that in mind, the zoo stated that "The organization will continue to share what it has learned about curbing zoonotic disease transmission, biosecurity protocols in managed care and field settings, and the implications to ensuring optimal health outcomes for humans and wildlife globally."

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