The Cincinnati Zoo trains great apes to receive a COVID vaccine

Great apes, big cats and other animals are among the creatures the Cincinnati Zoo is preparing for the coronavirus vaccine later this summer, the zoo said Thursday.

The zoo has begun training animals to voluntarily accept the vaccine, much like some animals are already training for treatments like flu vaccinations, said David Orban, the zoo’s director of animal science.

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The zoo’s famous hippopotamus, Fiona, which became an internet sensation after being prematurely born four years ago, has been trained to take part in blood draws. Giraffes have also been trained to offer their hooves for critical foot care.

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

The zoo plans to use a vaccine from Zoetis of New Jersey. Oakland Zoo has started vaccinating big cats, bears and ferrets, while San Diego Zoo vaccinated nine great apes in January and February following a COVID-19 outbreak. Zoos in Denver and Wisconsin plan to start the process soon.

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

READ THE FULL STORY: WATCH: Cincinnati Zoo trains great apes to get a COVID vaccine

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