Buin Zoo in Chile tests experimental COVID-19 vaccine on animals

Tiger in a cage, one person feeds him, the other is preparing to give him an injection from the side
Zoo workers prepare to give an experimental coronavirus vaccine to a tiger at Buin area, Chile, December 13, 2021, photo: Buin Zoo/ Reuters

Lions, tigers, pumas and an orangutan received an experimental coronavirus vaccine on Monday in the Buin Zoo in Santiago, Chile.

The increase in zoo animals testing positive for COVID-19 has zoos looking for ways to protect their animals from the virus. According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the coronavirus can spread from people to animals during close contact.

“When we learned a while back that animals were susceptible to COVID, we began searching for a way to help them, to secure our animals’ well-being,” Buin zoo’s director, Ignacio Idalsoaga, told Reuters.

“This is an experimental vaccine that was developed last year and had its safety and efficacy tested with dogs and cats,” said Cristian Dunivicher, an animal technician with American drug company Zoetis, who developed the vaccine.

“Today, we are using it as a donation for experimental purposes,” he said, adding that 70 other zoos across the United States are also testing the vaccine.

Zoetis donated 20 doses to the zoo in Chile that were used on ten animals. “We are vaccinating three tigers, three lions, three pumas and our orangutan because great apes are also susceptible to this [coronavirus],” Idalsoaga said.

This week, lioness Dana tested positive for COVID-19 in Belgium. At the beginning of December, the Antwerp Zoo in Belgium said two hippos were infected with the coronavirus. In November, two lions at Zagreb Zoo in Croatia tested positive for COVID-19.

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