Several orangutans and bonobos at the San Diego Zoo have received an experimental COVID-19 vaccine developed specifically for animals. They mark the first known non-human primates to get the shot. 

Frank, a 12-year-old gorilla at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, is pictured after recovering from the coronavirus. After his troop of eight western lowland gorillas got sick in January, zoo staff received experimental COVID-19 vaccines from veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis to give to other great apes in their care, including bonobos and orangutans. BRENT STIRTON, GETTY IMAGES FOR NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC

An orangutan named Karen, who made history in 1994 as the first ape in the world to have open-heart surgery, was among those to get the vaccine, according to National Geographic

Last month, Karen, along with three other orangutans and five bonobos at the zoo, received two doses each of the vaccine, which was developed by the veterinary pharmaceutical company Zoetis. 

“This isn’t the norm. In my career, I haven’t had access to an experimental vaccine this early in the process and haven’t had such an overwhelming desire to want to use one,” Nadine Lamberski, chief conservation and wildlife health officer at the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, told Nat Geo. 

Healthy again and back on public display, two members of the gorilla troop relax in their habitat. LamberskiÕs team plans to give them the experimental vaccine later this spring. (Photograph by Brent Stirton, Getty Images for National Geographic)

In January, eight gorillas at the zoo became the first great apes in the world to test positive for coronavirus. They are now recovering. 

Infections have also been confirmed in dogscatsminktigers, lions and several other animals around the world. However, great apes are a particular concern among conservationists.

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