Protecting animals from COVID, still a major concern at the zoo

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SALISBURY, Md. – If you’re planning a trip to the zoo then you may run into a few of these barriers. Although the pandemic does seem to be getting better, zookeepers say the threat is still not over for animals. “The COVID-19 pandemic brought to light zoonotic diseases to the general population, and we had to start changing what we do even more,” says zookeeper, Hannah Buchek, with the Salisbury Zoological Park.

Restrictions are lifted, masks mandates are minimal, and life is slowly returning to normal. However, according to zookeepers, the same can’t be said for some animals. “Our cotton top tamarins, north American river otters, our ocelots, white tail deer and our new Candaian Lynx cats, we have to wear our mask with all of those. Only fully vaccinated staff is allowed around the animals,” says Buchek.

Animal experts at the Salisbury Zoological Park tell us now that they’re fully open, there is a stronger need to keep the animals safe. They say that’s because just like humans, some animals can contract COVID-19. The zoo has put barriers in place in front of susceptible animals so guests can’t accidentally pass on the virus to them. “If our staff got sick, we wouldn’t have anybody to take care of the animals, and then if our animals got sick then we would be extremely sad and we wouldn’t have a collection,”  says Mary Seeman, the marketing development director at the park.

Zoologists and zookeepers also tell 47 ABC, there’s always a concern of animals spreading diseases to humans, also known as zoonotic sicknesses. However, they also say if an animal were to contract COVID from a human through what’s called anthroponosis, they could develop serious respiratory issues. “We’ve learned how to wear our masks, I don’t think I’m going to be able to train the otters to wear masks, I just don’t think it’s going to happen,” says Buchek.

So now animal experts at the zoo are asking for patience, and a little extra space between visitors and animals. They say the barriers are the only defense the animals have right now. “If it’s just as simple as putting barriers that are little bit further in front, then that’s what we need to do until we can learn more about this,” says Seeman.

Now those with the Salisbury Zoological Park tell us, they’re not sure when they can remove the barriers but the safety of their animals comes first.

Staff with the zoo also say they’re excited to bring in guests full time, and have many fundraising events on the calendar for the summer.

To find out about those events as well as other zoo safety guidelines, click here.

Categories: Local News, Maryland