BOISE, Idaho — Much like humans, some animals are susceptible to COVID-19. To protect the health and safety of staff, guests and zoo animals, Zoo Boise has been vaccinating the animals against COVID-19.
“More than half of our animals have been vaccinated at this point and time,” Director of Parks and Recreation Doug Holloway said. “We will never ever compromise the health and safety of our Parks and Recreation Zoo Team, the health and safety of our guests that visit Zoo Boise and obviously and certainly the health, safety and enrichment of our family of animals that we have at Zoo Boise.”
Since the late summer/early fall, Zoo Boise has been rolling out its COVID-19 vaccination process for the animals following guidance from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
“We've used our contacts with both of those organizations and gaining guidance on, first off, do we need to pursue vaccinations and the answer is overwhelming, yes we do,” Holloway said.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — the risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to humans is lowbut it can happen. Just recently, a snow leopard at the Illinois Zoo and three snow leopards in Nebraska all died from COVID-19 complications.
Zoo Boise rolled out its vaccination plan in two phases with a specific two-dose series meant for animals. Animals who were at the highest risk of contracting the virus were vaccinated first.
“The first phase was of hat guidance focused more on our primates, our otters, our hoofed animals and then animals that may have close contact with the public,” Holloway said. “For example, our farm animals. We have a feeding program with guests that visit the zoo so all of those animals were put into that first phase.”
All of the Zoo Boise cats and felines are fully vaccinated except the two lions that will get their second shots within a few weeks. Then, phase two will include the rest of the animals at Zoo Boise besides the reptiles and birds.
“Our top priority is keeping our employees safe and so if that means we needed to vaccinate animals in order to be certain there is no exchange between them and our staff, that is a top priority. Our animals mean a lot to us and mean a lot to the community, and they are a part of our family as well and so anything we can do to add an extra layer of protection to our animals, we want to do that," Holloway said.
Holloway said no animals have tested positive at Zoo Boise. One lion did exhibit similar symptoms to the virus last year but tested negative.