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Animals at Niabi Zoo receiving COVID vaccinations

Animals like the fennec fox and Amur leopard got their shots in February after the zoo was on a waitlist from the manufacturer of the veterinary vaccination.

COAL VALLEY, Ill. — After a long wait, a group of animals at Niabi Zoo finally received their veterinary COVID vaccine in February, according to a release from the zoo on March 7, 2023.

When the specially-made animal vaccine was first made available, the zoo was placed on a waiting list with the manufacturer, pharmaceutical company Zoetis.

The zoo received its first doses in late January. The first round of two doses was given on February 6 and February 27. The animals given the first round of shots included Amur leopards and fennec foxes.

A second group of animals will get their vaccination shots in the coming weeks.

“COVID-19 has been found in a wide array of mammals since the pandemic struck. And like humans, some species are particularly vulnerable to becoming seriously ill as a result," zoo director Lee Jackson said.

“A number of zoo animals have fallen ill due to COVID, and dozens have died as a result, including at least one snow leopard at a zoo in Illinois. The Niabi Zoo instituted biosecurity precautions for COVID, in addition to the standard biosecurity rules we already had in place," Jackson said.

Jackson attributes their precautions to their success in having no cases of COVID in any of their animals. "The addition of the vaccine to our biosecurity protocols will help assure the safety of our residents moving forward," Jackson said.

“Zoo animals, like family pets, receive regular vaccinations for things like rabies, distemper, and parvovirus, etc.," Jackson said. “The COVID vaccine is another important tool we will use to assure the health and well-being of the animals at the zoo."

Niabi Zoo opens to the public for the 2023 season on Monday, April 17.

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