A baby orangutan may have died from coronavirus at a zoo in Germany, PETA has claimed.
The campaign group is demanding an investigation into the death of nine-month-old Rima, but zookeepers have furiously rubbished the claims.
Leipzig Zoo announced the death of the baby orangutan last week, but were unable to give a cause of death, The Sun reports.
PETA, who campaign against the mistreatment of animals, have since said it’s “thoroughly likely” that monkeys can catch coronavirus, and said there should be an investigation into Rima’s case.
“The danger of apes being infected with SARS-CoV-2 is thoroughly likely,” PETA specialist Yvonne Würz said in a statement.
“As the closest relatives of humans, they are vulnerable to pathogens which cause respiratory illnesses in humans.”
Park officials, however, have maintained that Rima was severely ill before she died in April.
Zookeeper Daniel Geißler told German broadcaster MDR last week that she was “so ill that she passed away overnight”.
Mr Geißler added that a vet had been visiting Rima every day to try and save her life.
The young orangutan’s mother, called Pini, allegedly kept her body for several days after she died.
A spokeswoman for Leipzig Zoo rejected PETA’s claims, saying that no staff or animals had coronavirus symptoms.
”It’s difficult for us to respond to unqualified statements like this from PETA.
“The dead baby was not tested for coronavirus. She died at the start of April, and was already faint and in poor general health before that.”
“Neither staff nor animals have had coronavirus symptoms in our zoo. Therefore, we will not use up human screening capacity with unnecessary tests.”
Leipzig Zoo was closed for six weeks because of the pandemic, but partially reopened on May 4.
It is currently unclear how vulnerable animals are to Covid-19.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States is currently investigating a case in April where tigers and lions in a New York zoo tested positive for coronavirus.
Seven big cats, from Bronx Zoo, were apparently infected by a zookeeper.
The animals were tested after a four-year-old Malayan tiger called Nadia started coughing in late March.
The CDC said: “We are still learning about this virus, but we know it is primarily spreading from person-to-person and it appears that it can spread from people to animals in some situations.”
They added: “Public health officials believe these large cats became sick after being exposed to a zoo employee who was infected with the virus that causes Covid-19.
“This investigation is ongoing.”
This article originally appeared on The Sun and was reproduced with permission