Photo: Caitlin O’Hara / Getty Images
The phoenix zoo in Arizona is managing the first dose of the coronavirus vaccine to 75 animals to prevent the virus from spreading to animals from humans.
The vaccine that is administered to animals is different from the one given to humansas it targets the antigen of the spike proteins.
Big cats like Sumatran tigers, jaguars and African lions and many of the zoo’s primates like Bornean orangutans and tiny emperor tamarins received the injection.
Fruit bats, armadillos and Egyptian two-toed sloths are among the 75 animals vaccinated.
Veterinarians administered the first dose of the vaccine to prevent the virus from spreading to animals that come in close contact with visitors.
Many of the animals have been pricked, but the big cats are being vaccinated remotely with the use of darts.
Veterinarian Dr. Gary West, the zoo’s senior vice president of animal health and living collections, said in a statement: “They take it a lot better than people.
“They don’t like it, but they recover and come back to their lives.”
The vaccine used at the Phoenix Zoo was developed specifically for animals by Zoetis, a New Jersey-based global animal health company that donated the doses.
The vaccine is licensed for emergency use to protect endangered species.
West said the Phoenix Zoo has been taking precautions to protect the animals during the pandemic with protective gear and distancing.
The inoculations should give the most susceptible animals an extra layer of protection, he said.
Zoos across the country, including those in St. Louis and Denver, have recently faced outbreaks of COVID-19 among their animals and now the rest of the zoos are mobilizing to vaccinate their animals.
In March, nine great apes from the San Diego Zoo became the first nonhumans to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
Four orangutans and five bonobos at the California Zoo received doses of an experimental coronavirus vaccine developed specifically for animals last month.
One of those orangutans, whose name is Karen, was the first in the world to undergo open heart surgery in 1994.
The vaccines, which are not designed for humans, were delivered after eight gorillas at the zoo tested positive for COVID-19 in January after being infected by a zookeeper.
Zoo staff were able to administer the injections after distracting the apes with treats.
However, not all zoo animals have had the same luck, as three snow leopards at the children’s zoo in Lincoln, Nebraska died from the virus in November.
All three leopards, named Ranney, Everest and Makalu, contracted the virus in October.
The trio of snow leopards had nasal swabs and fecal samples taken after animal breeders “observed symptoms consistent with the virus in felines,” which may include shortness of breath or shortness of breath.
The zoo reported that snow leopards and tigers were treated “with steroids and antibiotics to prevent secondary infection,” but it was not enough to save the majestic creatures.