photo - snow leopard, sitting on rocks in enclosure, full side view, with long tail, very majestic stance by snow leopard, background if green trees


CONTACT: Kyle Shepherd
502-238-5331 (Media Cell 502-744-5639)

The Louisville Zoo has received doses of a uniquely formulated COVID-19 vaccine developed for animal species from the animal healthcare company Zoetis. Staff will administer the vaccine to species that have shown to be most susceptible to the virus beginning Friday, September 24, 2021.

The Zoo plans to administer the vaccine to 29 apes and cats over the coming weeks. Through the Zoo’s operant conditioning program, many animals already receive hand injections by keeper staff. The process for administering this vaccine will be similar to administering annual flu shots that the apes already receive.

The donated Zoetis vaccine is a two-shot series, and the Louisville Zoo is one of 70 zoos to receive the vaccine. It has been authorized by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Office of State Veterinarian for Kentucky.

The animal healthcare team and keeper staff will closely monitor all animals receiving the vaccine for any atypical reactions.

“Based on continued cases being reported in zoo animals around the world, and our own experience with the snow leopards, we are eager to get our most susceptible animals vaccinated,” said Louisville Zoo Senior Veterinarian Dr. Zoli Gyimesi. “Vaccination against preventable infectious diseases is a vital part of our preventative healthcare program.”

The Zoo’s keeper staffs who work directly with animals continue to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to safeguard the health of susceptible species.  Keeper and all Zoo staff follow COVID-19 safety protocols recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Louisville Metro Health and Wellness.

In December 2020, the Zoo’s three snow leopards tested positive for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19 in humans. All three were quarantined, cleared the virus, and were fully recovered by January 2021. The three snow leopards — NeeCee, Kimti and Meru — will all receive the Zoetis COVID-19 vaccination as part of this rollout.

Based on current knowledge, the risk of infected animals spreading the virus to humans is considered low. COVID-19 remains predominantly a disease transmitted from person to person.

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The Louisville Zoo, a nonprofit organization and state Zoo of Kentucky, is dedicated to bettering the bond between people and our planet by providing excellent care for animals, a great experience for visitors, and leadership in scientific research and conservation education. The Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).