Vets in full PPE give orangutans nasal swabs to test for Covid

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An orangutan gets tested for Covid-19 in Malaysia (AFP PHOTO / MALAYSIA'S SABAH WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT )
An orangutan gets tested for Covid-19 in Malaysia (AFP PHOTO / MALAYSIA'S SABAH WILDLIFE DEPARTMENT )

Several endangered orangutans in Malaysia have been tested for Covid-19 by vets dressed in full protective suits for the challenging task.

In a first for Southeast Asia, nasal swabs were collected from 30 orangutans in the state of Sabah on Borneo island to conduct antigen tests. The results showed that none of the animals had contracted the virus.

The tests were conducted on 7 September after a staff member at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre tested positive for the virus.

There have been increasing concerns about apes contracting the virus since several gorillas at the San Diego Zoo tested positive in January.

Vets collect swab samples from an orangutan for Covid-19 test (Malaysia’s Sabah Wildlife Department)
Vets collect swab samples from an orangutan for Covid-19 test (Malaysia’s Sabah Wildlife Department)

Photos handed over by the wildlife department showed several vets in protective gear pinning down an orangutan to collect nasal swabs.

Officials said they would now ramp up the testing of animals at the Sepilok Orangutan Rehabilitation Centre and the Lok Kawi Wildlife Park in Malaysia.

The fatal SARS CoV-2 virus has spread beyond humans to affect enclosed animals. A zoo in Atlanta, Georgia, said on Tuesday that 18 of its 20 western lowland gorillas, including a 60-year-old male, have tested positive for the virus.

In August, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported the world’s first case of Covid-19 in a deer in Ohio. The USDA had previously reported infections in dogs, cats, tigers, lions, snow leopards, otters, gorillas and minks.

Two Asiatic lions died in India’s Tamil Nadu state due to the highly contagious Delta variant of the virus in June. The zoo has nursed 13 other lions back to health. Eight Asiatic lions at a zoo in the Indian city of Hyderabad were infected by the virus in May.

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