Cincinnati Zoo Prepares At-Risk Animals for Voluntary Vaccination Administration

Posted July 8, 2021

Plans to receive doses and vaccinate later this summer

CINCINNATI, OH (July 8, 2021) — Great apes, big cats, and other mammals that interact with humans at the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden are being trained by their care teams to receive SARS-COV-2 shots without anesthesia.  The Zoo is hoping to receive doses of the vaccine from Zoetis (zō-EH-tis), a global animal health organization, later this summer.

“We’ve already started training some animals, such as gorillas, for voluntary injection training,” said Cincinnati Zoo’s director of animal sciences, David Orban. “This allows those animals to voluntarily participate in their own preventative health care and eliminates the risks associated with anesthesia.”

Vaccines, such as those used to prevent influenza, are a common practice in the Zoo’s preventative health care program, so some animals are already conditioned to receive these voluntarily. Many of the Zoo’s animals, including Fiona, have been trained to participate in blood draws.  One of the most impressive preventative healthcare training feats that the Zoo has achieved was to get its giraffes to offer their hooves for the foot care that is critical for that species.

The order in which the animals will receive the vaccine depends on the status of animals’ injection training when the Zoo gets the doses. Much like the human COVID-19 vaccine, the doses need to be carefully stored and used within a timely manner to prevent expiration.

“Our animal health team will have a carefully planned strategy mapped out once we get started,” said Orban. “They have been in close contact with Zoetis and other Zoos that have administered shots to their animals.”

The Zoo dropped its mask requirement for fully vaccinated guests earlier this summer, but face coverings are still required in areas where there is close human-animal contact.  Those include giraffe feedings, goat yard interactions, and behind-the-scenes experiences. The mask requirement may be lifted after these animals are vaccinated.  The Zoo recommends checking for the most up-to-date information prior to any visit.