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Zoo Staff Finds Treats Help With The Vaccination Of Animals


Three mountain lions, two tigers and two grizzly bears were the first zoo animals to be vaccinated for the coronavirus.

ALEX HERMAN: Oh, Archie the ferret - I forgot about him. He's on the list, too.


Dr. Alex Herman is vice president of veterinary services at the Oakland Zoo, where, during this pandemic, zero animals have had COVID. And it has been a lot of work keeping them safe.

HERMAN: All keepers - PPE, really strict protocols for hand-washing and food preparation.

KING: And so the zoo applied to get an experimental vaccine from Zoetis, and last week, a donation arrived. The veterinary drug company is giving doses to dozens of zoos with federal authorization.

FADEL: Now, you might think a tiger would be a little vaccine hesitant, but Herman says it can be persuaded with treats.

HERMAN: Basically, our nurses train the tiger to lay against the chain-link fence, and then one animal care person will squirt goat's milk - I think, is the real treat for the tigers - in their mouth while the other people give them an injection.


UNIDENTIFIED ZOOKEEPER #1: Poke. Poke. Good job (laughter).


UNIDENTIFIED ZOOKEEPER #1: Nicely done, sir.

FADEL: The special treat for black bears and grizzly bears - whipped cream and ice cream, which usually works.

HERMAN: There was one group of bears that the whipped cream was too exciting, and they couldn't focus on their behavior, so they weren't allowed to have it.

KING: (Laughter) Dr. Alex Herman says it's important for their animals to get shots because many of them are at risk and endangered.

HERMAN: We have really big responsibility to be stewards of these beautiful animals, and certainly, the evidence shows that the benefit far outweighs the risk in this situation.

KING: Next up for vaccination at the Oakland Zoo are the primates, fruit bats and the pigs.

(SOUNDBITE OF FREDDIE JOACHIM'S "SUN DRESS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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