Staff work with a leopard at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore. Certain species that are susceptible to COVID-19, including the Amur leopard, will be vaccinated over the next few months. Photo courtesy of Maryland Zoo.

Some animal residents at the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore will be getting vaccinated against COVID-19, zoo officials announced Tuesday.


Over the next few months, the zoo will begin vaccinating species that are “most likely to contract” the coronavirus, including North American river otters, chimpanzees, and cat species, such as the Amur leopard, cheetah, bobcat and lion, said Dr. Ellen Bronson, senior director of animal health, conservation, and research at the Maryland Zoo.

The animal health company Zoetis has developed vaccine doses specifically for animals, which the Maryland Zoo expects to receive in the fall, Bronson said.

“We have not had any cases of COVID-19 in the animals here, but the vaccine will add another layer of protection for the animals in our care,” Bronson said in a statement.

Zoetis will donate more than 11,000 doses of its COVID-19 vaccine for animals to be administered to more than 100 mammalian species at about 70 zoos, as well as other animal care facilities.

The United States Department of Agriculture and state veterinarians have authorized the use of vaccines on animals on a case-by-case basis.

Some animals, who have been trained to be more amenable to injections, may not even need anesthesia to receive the vaccine.

“Many of these animals are trained to participate in their own health care, meaning they willingly work with the animal care team and veterinary technicians to receive injections, and in some cases to even allow blood to be drawn and have ultrasound examinations performed while awake,” Bronson said. “The training avoids the need in some situations to anesthetize the animal for minor medical procedures.”

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Marcus Dieterle

Marcus Dieterle is the managing editor of Baltimore Fishbowl. He returned to Baltimore in 2020 after working as the deputy editor of the Cecil Whig newspaper in Elkton, Md. He can be reached at marcus@baltimorefishbowl.com...