Many animals are prone to respiratory illness, just like humans.
The Toronto Zoo could be giving their animals COVID-19 vaccines soon.
It all depends on whether or not Canada gives the green light to give the vaccines to the Zoo's animals. Dolf DeJong, the CEO of "your" Toronto Zoo, as he likes to call it, told Narcity that accredited zoos (especially in the U.S.) have started to administer vaccines to their animals.
"People often miss that these animals are so much like us; the primates, the orangutans, we share a lot of that genetic material there. They can be prone to respiratory illness," DeJong explained. "When you have North America's oldest orangutan and a 29-year-old orangutan who's pregnant, of course, you're going to bring these tools into play to look after their well-being."
Puppe is the oldest Sumatran orangutan in North America and turned 54 in September, while Sekali is expected to give birth sometime in April 2022.
There are 140 animals at the Zoo that are eligible to get the vaccine. On top of the gorillas and orangutans, lions, tigers, snow leopards, red river hogs, black-footed ferrets, and bats are among some of the other animals that can get the vaccine as soon as they get approval.
"We share this world with nature, and being able to have this tool and help people understand that these zoonotic diseases can move between animals and people is key to us building that stronger relationship with nature and doing more to protect them long-term, here and out in the wild," DeJong said.
The Toronto Zoo already announced that starting October 25, it will be implementing a mandatory vaccination policy for anyone who visits or works at the Zoo and is 12 years old and older.
"It is [...] important to understand that some of our animals are susceptible to COVID-19 illness, including gorillas, orangutans, tigers and lions, to name a few," DeJong said in the October 13 announcement. "We will use every tool at our disposal to protect our animals and, in particular, endangered species from developing illness due to COVID-19."
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Health Canada has a robust website with all the latest information on COVID-19 vaccines and can answer any questions you may have.