Tuesday, February 27, 2007

The Good and the Bad

Today was an especially busy day at the zoo. We started this morning examining several hyrax that appear to have a viral infection of some sort. Hopefully some supportive care and antibiotics against any secondary bacterial invaders will take care of them. They are neat little rodents that have a fantastic exhibit in the Desert Dome consisting of a series of rock ledges that allow them to scamper around above guests that are walking through. The picture at the left shows a group of hyrax cuddling together in the afternoon sun on exhibit.

Next we saw a Little Blue Penguin with a damaged beak. It is unclear how it happened, but the poor little fella’s lower beak was split right down the middle almost to its base. As you can imagine, due to the separate movement of the two halves, it is very painful so the beak had to be stabilized. The beak won’t heal back together, but will instead grow out slowly much like your finger nail or a horse hoof. As long as it doesn’t keep splitting, the beak should grow out normally with time. In order to stabilize it, a small pin was screwed into the end to hold the halves together and dental acrylic was placed for further support and to protect the ends of the pin. The picture shows the end product which will hopefully make him much more comfortable as his beak grows.

After he recovered from anesthesia, I met Timu, the Lowland Gorilla. Timu is actually a world-famous gorilla since she was the first “test-tube” gorilla. She will turn 12 years old this year, and is a favorite among the keepers and staff at the zoo due to her very easy-going nature. She had to be anesthetized today to remove a badly damaged tooth, and to repair a knee injury. Everything went very well. The first picture shows Timu on the x-ray table. Huck, one of the veterinary technicians, is getting ready to take blood on the far left of the picture. The two zoo vets are also in the picture. Dr. Julie Napier is up by the anesthetic machine, and Dr. Doug Armstrong is in the green shirt leaning over Timu. Also in the picture are two of the keepers. Especially with the great apes, there are at least two keepers always present to assist. The second picture is a better one showing Timu intubated and getting ready for surgery. Here you can see one keeper on either side holding each of her hands. They help to monitor her anesthetic depth by notifying the vet if they notice any tightening of her hand or other movement during the procedure. There are 14 gorillas at the HDZ, and there are plans in the near future to do echocardiograms on some of the males (heart disease is the leading cause of death in male gorillas), so I’m fortunate to get more opportunities to work with them!

Unfortunately, the afternoon did not go as well as the morning did. Some Addax where being brought to the HDZ and along with some Pronghorn antelope that were going to be transported further east. However, at some point during the trip, a divider came down in the trailer between the animals, and the Addax killed one Pronghorn and badly injured another. The injured antelope was brought here. Her most significant injuries were an open wound into her chest, and a deep wound into her abdomen. I was able to scrub in on the surgery, which was a great opportunity. The wound into her thorax and a torn lung lobe were repaired without incident, and a chest tube was placed. Unfortunately, too much of the small intestine of the antelope had been compromised and – due to the anatomy of the area – there was a question as to the viability of some of the other structures, so she had to be euthanized. And then the Parma Wallaby pictured above (which was being hand-raised by the staff) took a turn for the worse and died. We're not quite sure what happened with him, but hopefully necropsy results will help us figure out what happened.

So, it was a mixed day today. Hopefully it will be better tomorrow! I’ll end with a picture of one of the sloths right after he was given his evening meal. He certainly looks happy, doesn’t he! When I have time, I like to wander the zoo and just take pictures of all of the creatures. As you may have noticed in the first post, I’ve taken quite a few and will share some of my favorites with you. This one definitely ranks right up there! (you can click on the picture to see a larger copy...you may have to to see this guy's smile. :) )

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