Masking to remain at Calgary Zoo’s Rainforest building to protect Gorilla troop

Continued risk posed to gorillas from Covid-19

The Calgary Zoo's silverback gorilla Jasiri. SERGI BELSKI/WILDER INSTITUTE/CALGARY ZOO

Visitors to the Calgary Zoo’s Rainforest building will be required to continue masking in the days ahead, despite the incoming March end for that city and provincial mandate.

Citing the risk of Covid-19 on expectant gorilla mother-to-be Dossi, the zoo will continue with the public health measure to protect the troop from the risk of infection.

The transmission and illness risk for species in other buildings is considered low by the zoo.

“We have been taking extra precautions for 7 months to help Dossi have a successful pregnancy – from additional biosecurity to world-class maternal care and working with the entire gorilla troop to be prepared for all possible scenarios,” said Jamie Dorgan, director of animal care, health and welfare for the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo.

“We are asking visitors to continue to wear masks inside the Rainforest building to help protect Dossi and other troop members from a potential Covid transmission which could have a devastating effect on her precious pregnancy.”

The masking requirement for the entire zoo complex remains for now, as the city’s masking bylaw and existing provincial public health orders regarding masking are still in effect.

This requirement for the Rainforest building will be continued to be assessed on a monthly basis, factoring in the availability of Covid-19 vaccinations for the animals at the zoo, and other health care factors.

“Visitors will not be permitted inside the Rainforest building without a mask. Those not wearing masks will be kindly asked to leave the building. Visitors that are verbally abusive to staff or volunteers when asked to wear masks indoors will be escorted out of the park and no refund will be provided,” said a statement from the Calgary Zoo.

First time Gorilla pregnancies difficult, even without Covid

Zoo staff placed into effect extra precautions early in the pandemic to protect the animals. This included fencing, and extended distancing by the public from certain enclosures.

The animal care, health and welfare team will continue to wear PPE when interacting with animals.

This is the first pregnancy for Dossi, a 21-year-old member of the gorilla troop. The zoo announced last December that Dossi would be remaining with the troupe throughout her pregnancy.

Yewande, another first-time mother and member of the troop gave birth to a baby in March of 2021, but the baby did not survive.

The last successful birth of a baby gorilla at the Calgary Zoo was in 2016 with baby Kimani.

The Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo has been caring for gorillas for more than 50 years, and is involved in the international Species Survival Program for the critically endangered lowland gorilla species.

The world’s oldest gorilla, Ozzie, died at the age of 61 at the Atlanta Zoo as a result of a Covid-19 infection in January of this year. ABC News reported that Ozzie was being treated by staff at that zoo for face swelling, weakness, and the inability to eat or drink.

Earlier this month, five gorillas at the Dallas Zoo were reported to have tested positive for Covid-19.

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