Monday, February 26, 2007

Zoo News!

Greetings to all from the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha! Last week I started my 6 week rotation here. Due to some technical difficulties, I have been unable to go online until now, but will hopefully have daily updates from here on out. And because I have been unable to post my experiences yet, this particular one will be pretty long, so bear with me.

First, a little about the zoo itself: The Henry Doorly Zoo (HDZ) is situated on 130 acres right across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs, IA. It is has the largest collection of animals in the country, both in variety of species represented and in sheer numbers. There are over 900 species of animals on display here, and over 16,000 animals (if you count all of the fish). There are over 250 full-time workers and 650+ part-time workers and volunteers. Additionally, there is more active research in areas such as animal and plant conservation, genetics, nutrition, and reproduction going on here than at any other zoo in the country. Besides the main zoo, the HDZ also has a separate “safari park” where many of the large North American species are kept in more of a park setting. Bison, elk, and wolves are just some of the animals kept in this area.

One of the big reasons for all of the milestones this zoo has achieved is the work of Dr. Simmons, the zoo director. He was a veterinarian by trade, making HDZ the only zoo whose director is a vet. Through his direction, the zoo’s funding has increased dramatically, as have the number of large exhibits. Lately, the zoo had been averaging a large project every 2-3 years over the last ten years. Some of the recent additions include Gorilla Valley, the Desert Dome , the Kingdom of the Night (the largest nocturnal animal exhibit in the country) and the 3D Imax. Some of the projects that are in the works include a major renovation of the Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom building which houses many of the small animals (project scheduled to be finished early April of this year), a butterfly garden, major renovation of the elephant and rhino exhibits and possibly even pandas!

So, now a little bit of what I am doing here. I am here for a 6 week externship where I have the opportunity to follow the veterinarians here and learn about zoo medicine. There are two full-time vets here at the moment, though they will be adding a third plus an intern in the near future. Additionally, there is a cadre of dedicated veterinary technicians, some of whom have been working at the HDZ for 30 years! I have already had the opportunity to work with them all, and am gratified by their helpfulness and amazed by their animal-handling skills and knowledge.

The nice thing about coming to an institution like the HDZ (besides all of the aforementioned great things about this zoo which sets it apart from others), is its focus on education. Not only is the zoo a great place for the public to come learn about animals, it is a great place for students. I am actually living in the zoo! No, not on exhibit… ;) I am living in a dorm area that was built especially for students in the Center for Conservation and Research (CCR) pictured at left. Actually, the window of my room is the top left window. My view is of the Desert Dome! It is amazing to be able to go for a walk and see the big cats, the primates and so many other amazing creatures whenever I want!

And here are a few examples of the procedures I have been involved with already:

Fishing cat: anesthetized for investigation of a possible urinary tract infection
African Wild Dogs: vaccinated puppies against rabies

Wyoming Toads: highly endangered amphibian in conservation program so 25 needed to be microchipped.

Gaur: anesthetized for semen collection and study comparing anesthetic protocols
Rock Hyrax: microchipped 8 new animals
American Black Bear: anesthetized to investigate hair loss around tail and back

Jaguar: anesthetized for routine exam

Racoon dog: nail trim and dental check
Parma Wallaby: being handraised by keeper staff

Pygmy Slow Loris: several teeth needed to be pulled
Little Blue Penguin: his cracked lower beak needed to be repaired (fortunately it was minor)
Baird's Ratsnake: abcess on snout

This is a short list of some of the things I have gotten to be involved with…and this only in the first week! It has already been an amazing experience, and I will attempt to post daily on some of the other things I get to do! This week we will be doing a lot of work with the gorillas, so I’ll hopefully have some interesting pictures. I already have tons of great pictures, but I think I've filled this post to the max already!

1 comment:

the jackal said...

Absolutely amazing! I bet working on cats an' dogs is looking a little boring compared to that stuff, eh?