Cincinnati zoo training great apes to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Published 12:00 am Saturday, July 10, 2021

CINCINNATI (AP) — Great apes, big cats and other animals are among creatures the Cincinnati zoo is prepping for the coronavirus vaccine later this summer, the zoo said Thursday.

The zoo has begun training animals to accept the vaccine voluntarily, similar to training that’s already been done with some animals for treatments such as flu shots, said David Orban, the zoo’s director of animal sciences.

The zoo’s famed hippo Fiona, who became an Internet sensation following her premature birth four years ago, has been trained to participate in blood draws. Giraffes have also been trained to offer their hooves for critical foot care.

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The training “allows those animals to voluntarily participate in their own preventative health care and eliminates the risks associated with anesthesia,” Orban said.

The zoo plans to use a vaccine provided by New Jersey-based Zoetis. The Oakland Zoo has begun inoculating big cats, bears and ferrets, while the San Diego zoo vaccinated nine great apes in January and February after a COVID-19 outbreak. Zoos in Denver and in Wisconsin plan to begin the process soon.

The Cincinnati zoo eliminated its mask requirement for fully vaccinated guests earlier this summer. But it still requires them in areas where humans and animals interact closely, such as giraffe feedings and goat yard interactions. That requirement could be lifted once those animals are vaccinated, the zoo said.