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Zoo Staff Finds Treats Help With The Vaccination Of Animals

NOEL KING, HOST:

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.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

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.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

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

UNIDENTIFIED ZOOKEEPER #2: Good boy.

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.