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Potter Park Zoo begins vaccinating some animals against COVID-19

Snow leopard Taza receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in a screenshot of a video provided by Potter Park Zoo.
Potter Park Zoo
Snow leopard Taza receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in a screenshot of a video provided by Potter Park Zoo.

 Potter Park Zoo is vaccinating some animal residents against COVID-19.

That includes big cats susceptible to the virus like the tiger, lions and snow leopard housed at the zoo.

The vaccine was developed for animal use by pharmaceutical company Zoetis. The company is donating more than 11,000 doses to over 80 conservatories, sanctuaries and zoos across the U.S., including Potter Park.

The zoo has avoided COVID-19 outbreaks among the animals so far by following strict safety measures like social distancing, limiting time spent with certain species and wearing protective gear.

“We take every measure possible to provide safe and quality care to all animals at Potter Park Zoo,” Potter Park Zoo Director Cynthia Wagner said in a press release. “Utilizing this COVID-19 vaccine is another step we can take to protect the animals in our care.” 

For endangered animals like the snow leopard, protective measures like the COVID-19 vaccine are especially important.

“All the work we’re doing to keep species’ populations in zoos thriving and genetically diverse,” Animal Care Supervisor Pat Fountain said. “Losing species or losing individuals within a species, depending on how many you lose, can have a huge impact on the overall group."

Fountain said the zoo will follow recommendations from the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums to determine which animals to inoculate next.

 “Anytime we have the ability to vaccinate an animal that is susceptible to a certain disease, we always try to do our best,” he said. “Not every animal is super susceptible to every single disease so it does vary by species.”  

The Zoetis vaccine has been authorized for experimental use by the United States Department of Agriculture. 

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