Why Jimiyu — and orangutans and big cats too — are getting COVID shots at the St. Louis Zoo

St. Louis Zoo

Dr. Sathya Chinnadurai is the director of animal health at the St. Louis Zoo.

Last week, 29-year-old chimpanzee Jimiyu became the first resident of St. Louis Zoo to receive a dose of a COVID-19 vaccine specially formulated for animal species.

“The beauty of many of our animals is that they have great relationships with their keepers, and so through a lot of positive reinforcement and training we can volunteer many of our vaccines to animals,” said Zoo Director of Animal Health, Dr. Sathya Chinnadurai.

“There are some who are a bit suspicious, who take a little longer to convince,” he added.

About 35 mammals in the zoo have received their first dose, including several other chimpanzees, some orangutans, lemurs, foxes, and most of the zoo’s big cats.

“Our great apes and our big cats were our top priority animals,” said Chinnadurai. “So far, everyone has recovered very well from the injection.”

The great apes and big cats were a high priority because they can become infected with the same viruses that plague humans.

“There are a number of upper respiratory diseases that we could pass on to a monkey, or that a monkey could potentially pass on to a person,” Chinnadurai said. “It’s a little rarer for this type of disease transmission to move from a human to something like a big cat, but it’s definitely still possible.”

The vaccine developed by the animal health company Zoetis has not yet received full approval from the Food and Drug Administration, although the US Department of Agriculture has approved it for experimental use on a case-by-case basis.

Dr. Sathya Chinnadurai comes to St. Louis on the Air

Chinnadurai came to St. Louis on the Air on Wednesday to discuss how the St. Louis Zoo has maintained a COVID-19 positivity rate of zero percent, what it was like to vaccinate zoo residents for the past week, and since the pandemic began what other animals might receive the Zeotis injection.

“We’re still working on a very risk-based approach,” he said. “We could expand from the great apes and big cats to other mammals if more evidence comes to light.” [coronavirus] Cases in other species of mammals. But I think it is very unlikely that we will expand beyond mammals. “

“NS. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan Jane Mather-Glass is our production assistant and the sound engineer is Aaron Doerr.