March 6 (UPI) — The San Diego Zoo has vaccinated several great apes with an experimental COVID-19 for animals, zoo officials said.
A representative for the zoo said Thursday that four orangutans and five bonobos have received the vaccine. The zoo plans to vaccinate more bonobos and another gorilla.
Great apes, including chimpanzees, are the animals most closely related to humans, and have proven to be susceptible to the novel coronavirus. Eight gorillas at the zoo tested positive for the virus in January after exposure to a keeper who had it.
“That made us realize that our other apes were at risk,” Nadine Lamberski, chief conservation and wildlife health officer at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance told The San Diego Union-Tribune.
The zoo vaccinated the great apes “that are most at risk and can be easily vaccinated,” the representative said.
The two-dose vaccine was developed by veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis.
CBS News said the animals at the zoo are the first known non-human primates to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. Lamberski said the company has tested the vaccine on minks, cats and dogs.
A number of animals have tested positive for COVID-19 over the past year, most notably up to millions of minks on farms that’ve been euthanized the prevent further spread. Cats, dogs, tigers, lions and snow leopards have also tested positive for the disease, which public health experts say may have originated in bats before jumping to pangolins, then humans.