Brazil's President Bolsonaro bitten by ostrich-like bird during coronavirus quarantine: local media

The president was reportedly pecked by a rheas, a distant relative of the ostrich and emu

Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro on Monday was bitten by an ostrich-like bird he was trying to feed while entering into his second week of quarantine at the presidential palace in the capital Brasilia, local media reported.

He was bitten a week after announcing he tested positive for the coronavirus.

A rhea, a type of large, flightless bird native to South America and distantly related to the ostrich and emu, reportedly pecked at Bolsonaro while he was trying to feed it during a stroll through the Alvorada Palace grounds on Monday, according to local media outlet Metropóles site, which shared photos of the incident.

Bolsonaro, 65, announced on July 7 that he tested positive for the virus and had experienced fever, aches and malaise. He scrapped a trip he had planned to northeastern Piauí state, and all his meetings were converted to video calls. The same coronavirus recommendations he flouted for months – such as social distancing and wearing masks – became a part of his cloistered life at the palace.


In a phone interview with CNN Brazil from his official residence on Monday, the far-right populist leader explained that he plans to take another coronavirus test on Tuesday because he simply “can’t stand this routine of staying at home. It’s horrible.”

His critics in Brazil have poked fun at Bolsonaro after photos of his encounter with the bird began to circulate on social media. Communist party congresswoman Jandira Feghali responded to a photo of the incident on Facebook, writing “100 percent rhea.” Brazilian journalist Solange Mateus tweeted that “Even the animals recognize when someone is pernicious,” according to The Guardian. Biologist Flávio Souza also commented that “Nature is healing.”

Since his diagnosis, Bolsonaro has held virtual meetings almost every day with Jorge Oliveira, secretary-general of government, to sign official documents. According to Oliveira’s office, a protocol was created so work could be carried out digitally.

This was also how Bolsonaro interviewed candidates to head the education ministry, he said on Facebook on Thursday. The following day, he named to the post Milton Ribeiro, a former deputy dean of Mackenzie University in Sao Paulo who preaches at a Presbyterian church in Santos, outside the metropolis.


Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, center, talks on his phone while standing outside his official residence Alvorada Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Friday, July 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro, center, talks on his phone while standing outside his official residence Alvorada Palace, in Brasilia, Brazil, Friday, July 10, 2020. (AP Photo/Eraldo Peres)

Brazil recorded more than 1.8 million coronavirus cases, with more than 72,000 fatalities as of Tuesday, Both its tally of infections and death toll ranks second worldwide, behind only the United States.

Only a few aides who were previously infected by the new coronavirus could get close to Bolsonaro last week, one aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the person lacked authorization to speak with journalists, told the Associated Press. Bolsonaro also spent some time in the afternoons in front of the palace with photojournalists 400 yards away, on the other side of a garden. He had met his supporters by that garden until his diagnosis, but no longer.

The new routine marks a stark change for Bolsonaro, who spent months attending rallies with his fans, heading out to bakeries and food trucks to mix and mingle. He sometimes declined to wear a mask. He has scoffed at the restrictions mayors and governors implemented to contain the spread of the virus, arguing their economic impacts would cause more suffering than the virus, which he repeatedly called “a little flu.”


Bolsonaro took hydroxychloroquine pills for five days, Monday through Friday, according to a member of the presidential medical team who asked to not be identified, citing patient confidentiality and because the person isn’t authorized to speak publicly. The drug has no proven effect on the treatment of COVID-19 and can cause side effects such as cardiac arrhythmia, according to medical studies. As a result, Bolsonaro was subjected to electrocardiograms and blood tests, the person said.

Brazil’s presidential press office said in a statement that the president has experienced no medical problems with his treatment. The aide who spoke on condition of anonymity said Bolsonaro slept in a different bedroom to keep the first lady, Michelle Bolsonaro, safe. He lives with her, his daughter and step-daughter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.