A Bay Area zoo is inoculating its big cats, bears and ferrets with COVID-19 as part of a national effort to protect animal species with an experimental vaccine.
Ginger and Molly, two tigers, were the first animals at the Oakland Zoo to receive the vaccine this week, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. The doses were donated and developed by veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis in New Jersey.
Alex Herman, vice president of veterinary services at the zoo, said none of the animals had contracted the coronavirus but the zoo wanted to be proactive. Tigers, black bears and grizzly bears, pumas and ferrets were the first to receive the first of the two doses. Next come the primates and pigs.
In a press release, Herman said the zoo used barriers for social distancing and staff members wore protective gear to protect sensitive species. “We are happy and relieved that we can now better protect our animals with this vaccine,” she said.
Zoetis is donating more than 11,000 doses for animals living in nearly 70 zoos, as well as more than a dozen conservatories, sanctuaries, academic institutions and government organizations in 27 states, according to the press release.
The San Diego Zoo began inoculating primates in January after an outbreak of COVID-19 in a group of gorillas in its Safari Park.
Great apes share 98% of their DNA with humans and are particularly sensitive, as are felines. Confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been found in gorillas, tigers and lions in zoos, as well as in domestic cats and dogs.