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Louisiana zoo begins vaccinating animals against COVID, starting with gorillas and orangutans

Pregnant Endangered Gorilla
Posted at 4:23 PM, Oct 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-13 16:32:00-04

Audubon Zoo's gorillas and orangutans are in the process of receiving their first dose of the animal COVID-19 vaccine.

According to Audubon Nature Institute's website, Audubon also plans to vaccinate cats and mustelids such as otters at Audubon Zoo and Audubon Aquarium of the Americas in its next series of vaccinations.

The company Zoetis is donating more than 11,000 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine to help protect the health and well-being of more than 100 mammalian species living in nearly 70 zoos as well as more than a dozen conservatories, sanctuaries, academic institutions, and government organizations located in 27 states.

According to CBS News, the zoo joins a list of other zoos and aquariums across the U.S. vaccinating its animals against COVID-19.

The new vaccine has been authorized for use on a case-by-case basis by the United States Department of Agriculture and the appropriate state veterinarians.

"It's very important to us to protect our animals against COVID-19 and the Delta variant," said Audubon's Senior Veterinarian Bob MacLean. "We have been evaluating the scientific literature on animal susceptibility throughout the pandemic, and we are eager to protect our animals."

Zoetis' research and development team, headquartered in Michigan, applied decades of experience developing other coronavirus vaccines for cats, dogs, poultry, and cattle.

Zoetis' COVID-19 vaccine is uniquely formulated for animal species and does not pull from the doses available to humans, the website states.

"Although there are no long-term studies since the virus emerged less than two years ago, development studies by Zoetis demonstrated the vaccine to be safe and have a reasonable expectation of efficacy in mounting an immune response in animals," said MacLean.

All the animals receiving the vaccine at the Zoo and Aquarium voluntarily participate in their health care through positive reinforcement training and are not put under anesthesia to receive their vaccination.

They have been trained to sit, stand, or present their bodies during regular health checks by the animal care and veterinary staff, according to Audubon Nature Institute.

Animal care staff working near animals most susceptible to the virus have been following strict PPE protocols since the start of the pandemic.

Giraffe feeds, otter feeds, and other close encounter guest opportunities at the Zoo have been paused as a precautionary measure for animal safety.

"This proactive measure is an additional layer of protection. The health of the animals in our care, staff, and guests is our top priority," MacLean said.

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