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Santa Barbara Zoo continues with safety measures after gorillas at San Diego Zoo test positive for coronavirus

Zoos keep close eye on gorillas after outbreak among San Diego Zoo gorillas
Dr. Julie Barnes: Santa Barbara Zoo
Tracy Lehr / NewsChannel 3-12

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - David Linzey and his kids like to go the swings by the Santa Barbara Zoo.

Linzey calls it the next best thing since the zoo is temporarily closed due to countywide coronavirus precautions.

His children love the lions and the gorillas and he is concerned about newfound COVID cases among gorillas at the much larger San Diego Zoo.

Gov. Gavin Newsom's children love the zoo animals, too.

Newsom broke the news on Monday when he confirmed several gorillas in San Diego showed signs of the virus.

This is said to be the first known cases among great apes.

It appears they may have contracted it from a staff member who tested positive but did not show signs of the virus. Doctors call them asymptomatic.

San Diego Zoo Safari Park Executive Director Lisa Peterson said,
"This virus has been very, very tricky we are doing everything we can to respond to it, and make sure we are taking all the precautions and following all the guidelines that we can."

After they noticed some of their eight gorillas coughing last week, the zoo sent fecal samples to a lab and the results confirmed the gorillas had the virus that causes COVID-19.

Since they live in a troop, Peterson said they chose not to separate the ones showing symptoms. Instead, they will care for them all together.

Dr. Julie Barnes said the gorillas at Santa Barbara Zoo do not have the virus.

The veterinarian and zoo director of animal health said some mammals are highly susceptible.

"Big cats have been positive in several zoos around the country."

"We know that great apes are very susceptible as well, so we implemented safety measures since March of 2020 because of our concerns about some of our mammals and the risk of them actually getting COVID, "said Dr. Barnes.

She said the measures they are taking with the animals are similar to what they are doing with staff.

"We are practicing social distancing, or physical distancing, with our susceptible species. We also have a lot of measures in place in terms of food preparation."

Dr. Barnes is still waiting to get vaccinated and she said it's possible for gorillas to get vaccinated, too.

"There is the potential that they could get vaccinated down the road, there has obviously been no studies using this vaccine in primates, per se, but you know we definitely use other vaccinations in these animals. For example, our gorillas got an annual flu vaccination this year, and the prior year to that a pneumococcal vaccine as well, so yes, there is a possibility of them being vaccinated," said Dr. Barnes.

The zoo said donations have helped them care for animals during the pandemic. A donation link and more information may be found at sbzoo.org.

California / Coronavirus / Health / Lifestyle / Money and Business / Santa Barbara - South County
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Tracy Lehr

Tracy Lehr is a reporter and the weekend anchor of NewsChannel 3-12. To learn more about Tracy, click here

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