The animals at the Akron Zoo have started receiving vaccinations for COVID-19. The zoo plans to vaccinate all of its COVID-vulnerable species – Sumatran tigers, lions, snow leopards, jaguar, white-cheeked gibbon, golden lion tamarins, lemurs, ambassador straw-colored fruit bats, river otters, skunk, red wolves, coyotes, red pandas, Speke’s gazelles, goats and alpacas.
The COVID-19 vaccine was developed by animal health company, Zoetis, who donated the vaccine to the Akron Zoo. Use of the two-dose vaccine has been authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Ohio state veterinarian. The vaccine was developed uniquely for animals.
The vaccinations come after the five lions at the Akron Zoo tested positive for COVID-19 on Sept. 29. The lions – males Tamarr and Donovan and females Mandisa, Kataba and Msinga – have been treated for clinical symptoms over the course of the last month. Fecal samples have been regularly sent to the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Animal Disease Diagnostic Laboratory in Reynoldsburg, Ohio to monitor the lions for the virus.
On Nov. 2, all five of the lions received negative test results and have been deemed fully recovered from COVID-19. The lions will receive their COVID-19 vaccines as soon as possible, based on recommendations from Zoetis.
“We are very grateful that our lions have fully recovered from COVID-19,” said Doug Piekarz, president & CEO at the Akron Zoo. “The exceptional staff at the Akron Zoo worked tirelessly over the last five weeks to give our lions amazing care. As we vaccinate our other susceptible animals, we are relieved to be able to offer protection from this virus so that none of our other animal residents have to face the medical challenges that our lions did. Thank you to Zoetis for the donation of their vaccine and for making this a reality for Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA)-accredited facilities across the country.”
The Akron Zoo increased personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements in all animal care areas when the pandemic began. All staff members who work directly with any animal that is vulnerable to COVID-19 are required to be fully vaccinated.