In Malaysia, dozens of critically endangered orangutans were tested for COVID-19, with vets in protective gear doing the difficult process of giving nose swabs to the apes.

"As we had COVID-19 positive cases among the keepers and staff working at two of the only facilities in Sabah that house captive and semi-captive orangutans, we immediately initiated our full lockdown on the primate facility by testing all of the orangutans to make sure that they are free of the virus," Sabah Wildlife Department's Dr. Sen Nathan said.

Antigen tests were conducted on 30 orangutans in Sabah state on Borneo island last Tuesday (Sept. 7), and all of the results were negative, according to wildlife officials.

They were the country's first coronavirus tests on orangutans, ordered after staff at a rehabilitation center and wildlife park became infected with the virus.

Officials added that veterinarians would continue to closely examine the apes and that tests will be done on a regular basis.

COVID-19 has infected animals on a few occasions. A zoo in Atlanta announced over the weekend that several of its gorillas had tested positive for the virus. Domestic cats, dogs, and at least one ferret have all contracted the disease.

Sabah, on Borneo's north-eastern tip and home to vast swaths of jungle and a diverse array of rare animals, has seen an increase in cases.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature has declared Bornean orangutans to be "critically endangered."

According to the WWF, the animals' forest habitat has been gradually chopped down to make way for agricultural plantations over the last 60 years, resulting in a population decrease of more than 50%.

Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei share Borneo.

Malaysia is dealing with a severe outbreak caused by the extremely contagious Delta variant, with thousands of infections and hundreds of deaths being reported every day.

COVID-19 will be treated as an endemic disease in Malaysia by the end of October, according to Mohamed Azmin Ali, the country's Minister of International Trade and Industry.

When the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the disease becomes a permanent presence in the community and continues to circulate among people, it is said to be endemic.

Influenza, dengue fever, and malaria are examples of endemic diseases.