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Otters, chimps and lions to receive Covid shot at Maryland zoo

The Independent logo The Independent 15/09/2021 Clara Hill
a cat with its mouth open: Otters are among the animals that the zoo will vaccinate against covid  - Getty Images © Getty Images

Otters are among the animals that the zoo will vaccinate against covid

- Getty Images

A zoo in Baltimore is planning to give Covid-19 vaccines a number of its species as a part of a trial.

The Maryland Zoo will vaccinate animals that research has shown to be more vulnerable to catching the disease. The zoo has experienced no Covid cases in its animal population, and is making the move as a precaution.

“We expect to receive the vaccine in the fall from the animal health company Zoetis, which has developed a vaccine specifically for animals,” said Dr Ellen Bronson, the zoo’s senior director of animal health, conservation, and research, in a statement.

Zoetis is an international animal vaccine manufacturer and developer and have donated over 11,000 of their specially formatted Covid-19 vaccines to 70 zoos and animal centers. The scheme has been backed by the US Department of Agriculture.

Covid-19’s impact on animals is not very well understood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, it is still being looked into.

The zoo’s Covid vaccines will be allocated to animals they have assessed to be at most risk. In the statement, Maryland Zoo specified that they were going to inoculate chimpanzees, North American river otters and many of their wild cats, such as amur leopards and cheetahs.

Dr Bronson said that the animals were “trained to participate in their own healthcare”.

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“They willingly work with the animal care team and veterinary technicians to receive injections, and in some cases to even allow blood to be drawn and have ultrasound examinations performed while awake,” she continued.

She said this attempted to remove the need to sedate the animals “for minor medical procedures”.

According to the statement, the effort is a part of their larger pandemic control measures, such as mask wearing and social distancing. After the animals have had their jabs, they will be closely watched for side effects.

The Maryland Zoo’s decision to vaccinate some of their animals comes as a number of other zoos have done the same. In March, the San Diego Zoo became the first zoo to vaccinate their animal population when they vaccinated their gorillas. Oakland Zoo began their vaccine programme for some of their animals in June.

In July, Erin Harrison, a spokesperson for the California zoo, told CNN that the 50 animals involved in the process were doing well and that they were being checked over. In addition, she gave further detail about the reasons why they were doing it.

“We’re concerned about the animals’ overall population and long-term survival on the planet,” she told the network. “There’s been concern about wild populations of these animals, some of the last on earth, and what may happen when the virus gets into these animals. We’re just trying to do the best we can.”

In June, tiger reserves in India were forced to close by the government after there was an covid outbreak. A lion was said to have died from complications from the virus. In April 2020, there were reports of lions and tigers becoming infected at the Bronx Zoo.

The Independent contacted the Maryland Zoo and Zoetis for further comment.

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