Panthers, skunks, otters, primates getting COVID-19 shots first at ZooTampa

Specially developed for animals, the vaccine will be given to 19 species at greatest risk for catching the virus, the zoo said.
Skunks are among the animals first in line for COVID-19 vaccinations at ZooTampa.
Skunks are among the animals first in line for COVID-19 vaccinations at ZooTampa. [ ZooTampa ]
Published Oct. 14, 2021|Updated Oct. 14, 2021

TAMPA — ZooTampa has begun to vaccinate animals, including threatened and endangered species, that are susceptible to COVID-19.

The zoo will administer a vaccine developed just for animals and made by veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis. The Michigan-based company is donating the vaccines, which are in use at zoos throughout the country.

“The safety and well-being of the more than 1,000 animals entrusted to our care is of paramount priority,” said Dr. Cynthia Stringfield, a senior vice president at ZooTampa.

Animals at ZooTampa, 1101 W Sligh Ave., routinely get other vaccinations and many are trained to present themselves to animal care staff for minor medical procedures, Stringfield said in a news release.

“We’re both thankful and relieved a special vaccine is now available to protect animals against COVID-19,” she said.

Species such as Florida panthers, skunks, otters and primates top the list for vaccination. ZooTampa received a shipment of approximately 220 doses, enough to vaccinate roughly 19 species and a total of 93 animals.

ZooTampa is one of about 70 zoos, research institutions and sanctuaries working with Zoetis in administering the vaccines.

Among the primates on display at ZooTampa is the endangered Bornean orangutan. Another primate, a western lowland gorilla, tested positive for COVID-19 at the Kansas City Zoo, showing symptoms such as coughing on Sept. 25, the zoo reported. The zoo’s troop of six gorillas were presumed to have come down with the virus and were undergoing treatment.

The Zoetis COVID-19 vaccine received investigational authorization by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Zoetis research and development team has decades of experience developing antiviral vaccines for cats, dogs, poultry, and cattle, ZooTampa said.

Information from the Associated Press was included in this report.

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