The Maryland Zoo, which is located in Baltimore, said on Tuesday that it plans to vaccinate more than 30 of its inhabitants against the coronavirus this fall.
As reported by The Washington Post, the shots will be administered to chimpanzees, cheetahs, bobcats, lions, lemurs, North American river otters, an Amur leopard, and an American badger. Ellen Bronson, the Maryland Zoo’s senior director of animal health, conservation and research, clarified in a statement that none of these animals have gotten COVID-19 but said that getting them vaccinated will “add another layer of protection for the animals in our care.”
The announcement comes as 70 other zoos and conservatories in the United States said they plan to administer the coronavirus vaccine to their animal population. The vaccine is being donated by Zoetis, an animal health company that specializes in vaccines and medicine for livestock and pets. Zoo officials in Maryland said the vaccine will be given to those animals that “have been proven to be susceptible to COVID-19,” such as great apes and big cats. Each animal will be given two doses several weeks apart, experts told WaPo. They will then be monitored for side effects.
John Flanders Jr., who is an associate veterinarian at the Maryland Zoo, said that the animals being given the vaccine have already been trained on how to take injections. For the animals that may need to be anesthetized, the shots will be given when it comes time for their regular annual exams. “Chimps are trained to lean up against the mesh and hold their shoulder there while a needle is injected,” Flanders explained to WaPo, and added that the cheetahs, leopards, and bobcats are also trained to put forward their shoulder or a hip to get their shots.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has previously stated that they believe the coronavirus can infect certain mammals. The announcement by the Maryland Zoo comes after 13 great apes tested positive for COVID-19 at an Atlanta Zoo just a few days ago. While it’s unclear how the gorillas exactly contracted the virus, Atlanta Zoo officials believe that the infections stemmed from an asymptomatic staffer that had the disease. The staffer in question was fully vaccinated and wearing all the right protective gear. Animal experts have been worried most about great apes contracting the disease, as they are already susceptible to a plethora of illnesses, many of which can be deadly for them, even a common cold.