Friday, March 30, 2007

Adorable Otter

And my brother again sent me an absolutely adorable otter link that needs to be seen by everyone. Not responsible for any broken "cute meters!"

Pet Food Recall Update

A new culprit has been identified in the pet food recall. Melamine, (yes, Wikipedia is all over it already!) a product used to make plastics and in some fertilizers used in Asia, was found in the food and in the suspect wheat gluten. The rat poison that had been possibly found previously was not found in these latest tests. (story)

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Lemur Bites Can be Nasty!

No, I didn't get bit by one, but they sure do have a set of chompers! Today we did physicals on two black and white lemurs. What beautiful animals, but those teeth are nasty! The top canines are especially dangerous. The back of those teeth is narrow and almost serrated. It's bad news when they get into a fight, because they can really rip each other up severely. We also had to get blood from a white stork for a preshipment today.

Oh, and I forgot to mention our critter capers from yesterday. We had one more gaur to known down for the aforementioned study (it went very well), then I got to help blowdart vaccines into some big cats. Five tigers and one snow leopard got two vaccines each from me. I only had one miss, and Lesson 1 was in full effect. The most impressive example was Bulang, an Indochinese male that was very unhappy about the whole procedure.

Kind of a short post for today, but I'm tired like 'Big' here (yes, his name is Big :p):

Fish Fryer

My brother sent in this amazing footage of the ultimate in "green" food preparation. Quite a nice combination of American fast food, ingenuity, physics and nature. Goldfish Fryer.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

White Tigers and the Conservation Question

So...we've covered the basic genetics of color heritability in tigers, and now you are probably wondering where I am going with this all. Well, a little more story-telling first. Remember Mohan? He was the male white Bengal tiger captured in the 50s. There were reported sightings and even shootings of white tigers before him, but he was the first one caught alive, that we know about. As the story goes, his mother and 2-3 siblings (depending on the account you read) were shot by the Maharajah at the time, but Mohan the Cub, escaped. Fascinated by the idea of catching a white tiger, the Maharajah sent dozens of people out into the jungle to round the cub up. Long story short, he was captured and taken to the Maharajah's palace where he lived out his days in relative captive luxury.

But it certainly wouldn't do to just have one white tiger. More white tiger cubs clearly needed to be created! To do this, the Maharajah bred Mohan to a wild-caught female Bengal of normal coloration, getting a litter of cubs with the typical orange and black look. However, banking on the idea of simple dominant-recessive inheritance of color in tigers (though it hadn't been described as such, yet), the Maharajah then bred Mohan to one of his daughters. Voila: he got some white tiger cubs!

And it is certainly easy to see the fascination with white tigers. They are stunning animals with that brilliant snow-white fur that contrasts so perfectly with that unique pitch-black striping and those ice-blue eyes that look right through you. It is easy to see why a group of them would certainly be an impressive sight, and why they would be a desirable addition to any one's magic routine.

The problem is they are a man-made species. All white tigers of today can be traced back to Mohan and, consequently, all are highly inbred. It is an example of inbreeding, a relatively common practice in the animal world. Closely related animals are bred in the hopes of magnifying and perpetuating a desirable trait. Inbreeding has been used to develop virtually every domestic dog, cat, horse, cow, pig, bird, goat, sheep, rabbit, etc, breed that there is. Unfortunately, while this type of breeding may intensify the desirable traits that are being bred for, it will also magnify the bad traits. Highly inbred animals tend to have a much higher rate of genetically-related deformities and faults. White tigers are especially inbred since there are so few of them and Mohan is essentially the only foundation animal. In the white tiger, common birth defects include everything from crossed eyes to arched backs to a weakened immune system.

Another problem is that most white tigers are "mutts." The original white tigers have been crossed with Siberians, Indochinese, Sumatran and other tiger species so much that it is difficult to say with certainty what species many individuals are. Interestingly, the highest incidence of birth defects is now seen in white tigers that are Siberian/Bengal crosses of on sort or another while the Bengal whites tend to be healthier. Many would have you believe that white tigers are some unique, exceptionally rare species which is clearly not the case at all. In essence, white tigers are to other tigers what the bulldog is to the wolf.

So, here is the basic gist of the issue: the white tiger is a man-made phenomenon. The goal of conservation is to maintain species in as close to their natural form as possible and there is a very limited amount of money and resources to do that. Conservationists would like to see all that money go to preserving the various tiger species in their natural form. However, the white tiger is stunning! The white tiger is beautiful! The white tiger is mysterious! People love white tigers! People are much more excited about seeing a white tiger than they are with the "run-of-the-mill" orange and blacks. And, consequently, they are more likely to donate money to an institution that has white tigers. I don't have any actual figures to back it up, but just ask any zoo director or curator. They'll tell you the same story.

So, what is a conservationist to do? It grates against the very fabric of their being to devote precious time, energy, resources, and space to this genetically worthless, messed up creature. Many hardcore conservationists argue that the breeding of tigers for the express purpose of perpetuating the white mutants should be stopped, and the thought certainly has merit. On the other hand, the funds and interest that the white tigers bring in is certainly nice, and could be applied to other species as well. But does the end justify the means? Is it fair to keep white tigers only because they are a money-maker?

That question is the heart of the matter, and it is one that gets anyone in the zoo world fired up. If you want to have a passionate debate about conservation, just start talking about white tigers. Ultimately, each institution makes its own decision about whether or not to keep white tigers. I can tell you, of the 30-odd tigers that are here, 4 of them are white Bengal tigers (3 females and 1 young male).

But, "come on," you say ,"are they really that much more popular than the other tigers? They are beautiful as well." They certainly are. But nearly every time I have walked through the cat house in my 5+ weeks here (which is almost every day), the biggest crowds have been watching the white tigers.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Wild Cats and White Tigers

Saturday we finished the Tiger Project with ‘Teja,’ an Indochinese tigress. Everyone is hopeful that in a few months, the HDZ will be crawling with tiger cubs!

Today we had a very busy morning. Five African Wild Cats out at the Wildlife Safari Park needed their annual physicals and vaccinations. Blood was drawn for routine CBCs, serum chemistry along with additional blood, feces and urine for a nutrition study. Then we looked at a swift fox that had gotten into a tussle with another swift fox. She had a torn ear and some bite marks that needed to be cleaned up. After that was done, she was put on some antibiotics and pain medication for the next few days. Then we had to vaccinate 5 pelicans and a raven against the West Nile virus. So, it was a busy day!

And it is high time I talked about yet another broad lesson I’ve learned so, here we go! This will be a long post, so bear with me (if you want to, that is :p)! (link to lesson 1, as a refresher)

Lesson 2: Conservation and Population Medicine (and the revelation that money is not green, but black and white)

There are two distinct forms of medicine within veterinary medical practice: population medicine and individual medicine. In the most basic sense, population medicine deals with animals in production situations (feedlots, cow/calf, swine farms, poultry farms, etc), but it can also deal with companion situations. An example would be vaccinating a pet dog against rabies to protect the dog, but also to reduce the incidence of rabies in the area, thereby making the entire population safer. Individual medicine more classically deals with individual companion animals of all shapes and sizes, but is applicable in production schemes as well. Individual dairy and beef cows, for example, routinely get individualized care for specific conditions from milk fever to bloat. Many veterinarians go into certain areas of practice, because they either like or dislike population medicine. In zoo medicine, I have found that you can’t have one without the other.

There are two main reasons that zoos exist: animal display and animal conservation. Some institutions are more heavily involved in one side or the other, but both have a place. At the HDZ, I’ve found that the split is fairly even. Yes, there are many animals on display, but many of them are a part of intensive conservation programs for their species. And there are many animals that are here but not on display, conservation being the primary reason they are here. One example of that would be the Wyoming Toads. Declared extinct in the 90s, an isolated population was later located and captured. Now there is a growing population of these toads (which, at one time, were the most numerous vertebrate in the state of Wyoming) in a handful of conservation institutions across the country, including the HDZ.

All of the endangered and threatened species here have an SSP (Species Survival Plan). These plans look at everything from conservation of the natural habitat of these species to breeding programs that will best maintain a genetically healthy population in the future. The SSP is one of the main cornerstones on which conservation stands. It is population medicine on an individual basis.

Now enter the white tiger. The white tiger is an anomaly in the tiger world; a man-made anomaly. Many have the mistaken notion that this is a unique, highly endangered species of tiger. Others think that all white tigers are actually Siberian tigers, the white coloring helping them to blend into their snowy environment. Both beliefs are actually wrong! In fact, all white tigers alive today can be traced back to one white Bengal tiger, Mohan, who was captured in 1951.

Before I continue, I should speak briefly about the inheritance of color in tigers and give you a basic genetics review. The ‘genotype’ of an animal is the genes it has. The ‘phenotype’ is how it expresses those genes; literally what it looks like. The normal color of all species of tigers is the characteristic orange and black that most of us think of first when we think of tigers. The white and black coloring is a simply inherited recessive trait. Without getting too technical, I’ll use ‘B’ for the dominant color gene (coding for orange and black) and ‘b’ for the recessive color gene. Simple dominant-recessive expression means that an animal will need to be homozygous (having two copies of the same gene) for the recessive gene, or a ‘bb’ genotype, in this example. A tiger that is homozygous dominant (BB) or heterozygous (Bb) will look normal, phenotypically. The Bb tiger, however, may produce a bb white tiger if it is bred to another Bb tiger (or, of course, a bb tiger).

Many people are familiar with the good old Punnit square from genetics. The Punnit square is used to predict the ratio of certain genotypes in a given breeding of two parents of a known genotype (or, conversely, to identify the genotypes of the parents, given the phenotypes of the offspring). Using a Punnit square, here are the likely outcomes of tiger breeding for color:

BB x BB = 100% BB offspring = 100% orange/black
BB x Bb = 50% BB + 50% Bb offspring = 100% orange/black
BB x bb = 100% Bb offspring = 100% orange/black
Bb x Bb = 25% BB + 50% Bb + 25% bb offspring = 75% orange/black, 25% white/black
Bb x bb = 50% Bb + 50% bb offspring = 50% orange/black, 50% white/black
bb x bb = 100% bb offspring = 100% white/black

Still with me? Excellent! I’ve gotten quite long today, so you’ll need to tune in tomorrow for what this all has to do with conservation and population medicine!

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Rat Poison in Pet Food

A rat poison, aminopterin, has been found to be the culprit in the pet food recall. Click here for more information. How it got there remains a mystery.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Bundle o' Fur

Enough can't be said about the adorable this little polar bear cub is. Named "Knut," he's living at a zoo in Berlin and is already an international star. This is thanks mostly to an animal rights activist who made headlines by declaring the cub should be euthanized because it isn't right to handrear baby animals. They certainly didn't make any friends or recruit any more people to their cause on that particular idea!

I'm just honored I now have the personal experience to say with authority that polar bears are just as soft as they look!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

More Tigers!

And the Tiger Project continues! Just a short update today as I'm pretty tired. We haven't really done anything else except tigers anyway, so there is not a whole lot to report. Two tigresses were done on Wednesday (both had the GIFT done) and an Indochinese tiger named Sari was done today (She is pictured below on the right waking up from anesthesia). She had the ICSI procedure done. As planned for the project, no oocytes were collected from her, but several embryos were transferred in. The last tigress will be done on Saturday and will likely also have ICSI done, depending how many viable embryos we have by that time.

I can say with certainty, though, that I have certainly learned the previously described Lesson 1 pretty well. Since we are working with these tigers so much, I have gotten the opportunity to dart a few individual tigers several times. One tigress in particular definately hates me! I entered her holding area the other day to dart her (yet again) for the project, and as soon as she saw me, she went balistic. I wish I had been able to film her. It was quite a show! There was much roaring, snarling, charging, and bristling. In fact, she was so frustrated that she couldn't eat me due to the cage, that she started biting the large log in her cage, actually throwing it towards me at one point. Even so, I was able to dart her!

And pictured below is a picture of the paw of Tiksi, the largest female Siberian Tiger that we did. I should of something in there for scale!

Pet Food Recall Update

Apparently, the Iowa State University Veterinary Diagnostic Lab has been the main instituition examing tissues from the animals that have dies due to the pet food recall. Here is some text from the website detailing some of their findings:

"Autopsy and microscopic examination of tissues from affected animals indicate acute renal toxicosis including the presence of birefringent crystals, as well as other crystal formations. The effects are consistent with exposure to ethylene glycol and derivatives, mycotoxins, ochratoxin and citrinin, some heavy metals or vitamin D toxicity. At the present time the exact cause of this problem is not yet known. Investigations are continuing."

The full report can be read here. Definately bad news for the animals, their owners and the pet food manufacturer. However, it is great that the ISU pathologists are on top of this national problem!

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Tiger Project in Full Gear

Today marked a major uptick in our currently running Tiger Project. I'll elaborate a little on what, exactly, is going on. As I mentioned before, the HDZ is one of the leading instituions in research on tiger reproduction. The Tiger Project is part of that research. Last week we immobilized several female tigers and placed hormone implants under their skin. These implants release a hormone known as FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) at a steady rate over a period of several days. As the name implies, this stimulates development of follicles on the ovaries of these cats and will (hopefully) bring them into heat and cycling in a manner so that we can appropriately time other treatments. In this instance, all of the tigresses responded to the FSH, showing strong signs of coming into heat as was expected and hoped for. This week (7 days after the implants were placed), the tigresses are being darted with additional hormones: GNRH (gonadotropin releasing hormone) and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) which will stimulate final development, materation and (untimately) ovulation. However, for the Tiger Project, we want to anesthetized these tigresses before they ovulate.

The goal of the Tiger Project is to collect the eggs so that other reproductive technologies can be used. The simplified version is that we collected eggs from this tiger (got 11 overall), several of which were then injected into her own Fallopian tube along with sperm that we collected from another Siberian tiger this morning in the hopes of getting some cubs! Also, some of these eggs will be transferred into other tigers so that those techniques can be standardized, also to get cubs.

"Big deal," you say. "Why don't you just let them breed naturally or just artificially inseminate them?" Well, there are a few reasons why. First of all, the goal of this research is to improve reproductive techniques in tigers so that natural breeding is not needed to ensure cubs. In order to maintain a healthy population of any species, it is important to maintain a diverse gene pool. For natural breeding, that would mean the nessescity of transporting male and female tigers all over the place so that they could be bred to unique individuals. By perfecting these techniques, we will be able to avoid that very time-consumming (minimal quarentine protocols and time to introduce animals takes literally months) and costly propositition. And as far as artificial insemination goes, it is historically extremely difficult in feline species, especially tigers. These other techniques are actually much more effective at producing cubs.

So, how is it done? With laproscopic surgery! Pictured at right is a laproscopic view of a tiger ovary with severeal very nice follicles. They appear as "blister-like" vesicles on the surface of the ovary. A needle is inserted into the follicles and the contents are litereally sucked out and collected. Then our reproductiove technologists exam the contents for eggs and grade their developement. Since we were putting several back into the tigress today, the opening of her Fallopian tube was then located and sperm and several mature eggs were put back in. This procedure is called gamete intrafallopian transfer or GIFT. Another method that we will be doing later this week you may have seen video of: where sperm is injected directly into the egg. This method is called intracytoplasmic sperm injection or ICSI. In-vitro fertilization (IVF or "test tube fertilization") has been done several times successfully here at the HDZ, but GIFT and ICSI show promise of higher success rates.

So, as you can see, it will be quite a full week! And hopefully it will result in many cubs! I'll end with a picture of Garth, the sperm donor of today. This is after he woke up from anesthesia and, as you can see, he isn't very pleased!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Pet Food Recall

Headlines were made this weekend about a major petfood recall involving some of the most popular brands of dog and cat food. Several reports of kidney failure in animals that have eaten different "chucks in gravy" type meals sold in cans and pouches has prompted the manufacturer, Menu Pet Foods, to announce the voluntary recall of these products. A complete list of the products as well as more information can be found at this website.
In an attempt to find more information myself, I attempted to log onto several of the websites. However, traffic is pretty heavy and as I'm working off of an older computer at present, I wasn't able to get much. I was able to finally get through to the Eukanuba website. Here is a direct link to their recall product information.
It is important to note that the cause of the problem has yet to be identified, and may not even be related to these products. The recall was issued due to the coincidence of the company receiving several reports of pet deaths related to renal failure around they same time they started use of a product in their foods from a new supplier. This is a precautionary measure only, but pet owners are urged to find out if their pets have consumed this food from the affected batch and monitor their pets for signs of renal failure.
Depending on the type of renal failure, your pet may show a variety of signs from increased to decreased water consumption and urination, to vomiting, inappetance, and lethargy. You should see your veterinarian immediately if you have noticed any of these signs. They could be signs of renal failure, or other serious medical conditions such as diabetes and other endocrine disorders.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Polar Bear Fun

No blog-worth procedures for today or yesterday, but I got some great footage of the polar bears playing. They were definitely having a fun time, and were a very popular stop for the guests. The two bears (19 year old sisters, incidentally) would take turns playing with the ball. There were some minor fights with much growling, roaring and posturing as one decided that she was ready to play with the ball again before the other was finished. More often than not, one bear would play around in the water with the ball for awhile, then either leave the ball in the water or push it up onto land and leave it. Then she would go and start rubbing the water out of her fur while the other would take the ball.
The following two videos show the unique play styles of the different bears. One of them liked to take a running start and pounce on the ball in the water. The other would actually take the ball out of the water, push it up to one of the rocky outcrops in the exhibit, then pick it up and throw it in before jumping on it herself. Very fun to watch!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Fantastic Fossa Facts

Another personal technological breakthrough: I figured out how to add a hit counter!

I wasn't able to get onto the computer yesterday, so I'll give you a morning update. The biggest event of yesterday was the immobilization of a fossa (pronounced FOO-sa). And the biggest part of that was that I got to do the whole procedure! Dr. Armstrong was there for advice and guidance, but I got to come up with the drug dosages, put the dart together, blow dart the fossa, do the whole physical exam, clean his teeth and ears and then give the reversal agent. The whole procedure went very well, which I was especially relieved about since this particular animal had had some difficult immobilizations in the past. It was great practice, because I had to tweak the drug dosages based what had been done before and find something that would work better for him. I ended up increasing everything a bit, and it worked great! Almost a little too great! He was lateral in 4 minutes after the dart (normal time for my combo should be around 10 minutes), which we thought meant either (1) I went with too high a dosage, or (2) part of the dose went IV (intravenous) instead of all IM (in muscle). Neither is a big problem, but both need to be recognised so that -- if a problem does come up -- it can be dealt with. The fossa was still a bit reactive, so it took the expected amount of time before "hands on." (picture at left from Judging from the depth, quality, and duration of his anesthesia, Dr. Armstrong was fairly certain by the end that no more than a small amount of drug had gone IV (if any) and the drug dose was appropriate for him.

Anyway, now would probably be a good time to say a little about the fossa! They are the largest mammalian carnivore on Madagascar, and hunt everything from insects to amphibians to lemurs. (picture at right from Cat-like in appearance and movement, they are amazingly good climbers that can hunt lemurs through the treetops of the rainforest. They can be aggressive towards conspecifics (their own species), so they are typically kept in solitary exhibits. Males are typically slightly larger than females. The fossa that I immobilized was around 20 lbs. They have an very long, cat-like tail for balancing as they run around in the trees. They are very elusive in the wild and are thought to be mostly nocturnal. (picture at left from Though they do have all of these cat-like attributes about them, they are most closely related to mongooses. Fossa are considered Endangered with an estimated population of less than 2500 in the wild. The biggest problem is that the remaining animals are scattered in isolated patches of forest throughout the island which has been separated by deforestation. Then of course, there is the problem that these opportunistic hunters cannot resist a few domestic chickens now and again, which certainly doesn't endear them to Malagasy farmers.
So, that's it on the fossa for now! Here is one more very nice picture from the San Antonio Zoo. It is hard to get good pictures here, because they are in a nocturnal exhibit. And when I was doing the work on the fossa yesterday, I wasn't able to take any time and get a few good pictures of him! (picture below from
And here are a few more favorite pictures I've taken. This pair of storks can be seen in the outdoor aviary at the HDZ. They have been working on a nest on top of one of the gazebos there. According to many, a stork nest on your property is a sign of good luck!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Pumas and Peacocks

Since I was unable to give an update of my various activities over the last few days, I'll give you all an update!

The Tiger Project continues to go well. Three more tigers were anesthetized as part of it on Tuesday and one additional tiger on Wednesday. The purpose of the immobilizations this week was to give the tigresses a hormone treatment (I can go further in depth for interested parties!) in preparation for next week when we will be doing artificial insemination (AI), oocyte collection and embryo transfer with these cats. We will definitely have a busy week of it next week! Tigers are the only thing on the schedule, though (inevitably with a collection this large) we will certainly have other creatures to look at as well.

Meanwhile, we saw some other creatures as well. Pictured at right is a Tiger Quoll (Dasyurus maculatus), a very interesting Australian marsupial that looks something like a spotted opossum with a large, bushy tail. He had a skin infection that needed to be looked at. We also looked at a round ray (I don't recall the species) that had a minor abrasion on her dorsum, a degu that was feeling under the weather, a bison that was losing weight.

I also drew blood from the peacock at left for routine testing before he is taken to another zoo and from the puma at right. And below is a picture of "Boop," one of 3 Blue Monkeys that had their routine physical exams and vaccinations done.

We also took a look at this Pronghorn antelope buck named "Goliath." (Here checking out Dr. Napier) About a year ago, he had a very severe fracture of his right humerus that required extensive surgery to fix. He is currently doing very well, except he moves gingerly when he gets up after lying down for awhile. He is definitely a favorite among the staff, and quite a nice buck.

Another fellow we took a look at today is "Biff," this little Dama Gazelle calf. He was hand-raised by the staff at the hospital and is currently being transitioned to life with the other Dama. He hasn't quite figured out yet that he is a Dama, but as you will see in the following movie, his legs know that's wheat he is! Unfortunately, it's not the greatest quality movie because of where I was standing, but you can see him do the very characteristic gazelle "spronk" which they do when they are particularly excited. He was having fun running around the paddock!

And to further expand on my previous post about the lemur species that have been discovered here, the picture at right shows a wall where they have the pictures of all of the species of Sportive Lemurs that were discovered here in 2006 alone. And pictured at right is one of the mouse lemurs. Many of these species have been differentiated from other species primarily through DNA analysis.

Well, that's about enough for today. I'll continue with more "Lessons" on any upcoming days when I don't have as much to report. If any readers have any special requests regarding information/pictures and/or discussion of certain species, procedures, or topics, please let me know!

New Leopard Species in Borneo

Some technical difficultiers over the last few days have prevented me from updating on my current capers, but I'll hopefully remedy that this evening.

In the meantime, here is an interesting report about a new clouded leopard species that has been identifyed in the rainforests of Borneo. It's amazing to me that new species are still being discovered at the rate that they are! Here at the HDZ, they have identified a dozen new species of mouse lemurs from Madagascar in the last year alone! These species include the Simmons Mouse Lemur, among others.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Tiger Project (Day 1)

Today we started "The Tiger Project" as it is called around here. The HDZ is nationally renowned for their great successes in breeding tigers. Much of that success is thanks to the years of dedicated research that has gone into tiger reproduction. The Project is a continuation of that research. Over the course of this week, we will be immobilizing several of the female tigers as part of a hormone study and in preparation for further reproductive work with them this spring. During these immobilizations, the tigers are also given a complete physical, a teeth cleaning (if needed), any needed vaccinations, and blood collecting for routine analysis and banking. The tiger at left is just starting to wake up after everything was finished. That was about all the blog-worthy stuff we did for today!

I have been at the HDZ for just over 3 weeks now, and I have learned several interesting lessons about zoo medicine and the differences you can expect when compared to more conventional practice. Since I expect that I won't have as many different things to talk about since we will mostly be immobilizing tigers all week, I'll try to impart some of the lessons I have learned thus far.
Lesson 1: If you want the animals to like you, do not become a veterinarian, particularly at a zoo. This is something that many vets in conventional practice encounter as well. No matter how nice you are to your patients, there is a majority that will simply not like you. Whether it is the car ride in, the commotion at the office, the smells, the sounds, or any number of other reasons, very few animals enjoy trips to the vet. The animals typically express their fear in one of two ways: either they start trembling and become skittish or they go on the offensive and become overly pushy or downright aggressive. In a zoo setting, those reactions are magnified by the size and "wildness" of the animals you are dealing with. With many of the animals, particularly the more intelligent creatures such as the great apes and the big cats, they immediately recognize the zoo vet in the crowd and their behavior will change dramatically. They know when they see either vet, that they have a chance of getting darted and they are very unhappy about that prospect. Some, like the tiger to the right, simply try to hide. Others are not so subtle. A cat that is perfectly calm and content may suddenly jump up when they see that vet and charge, hackles raised, teeth barred and roar echoing. The apes, particularly the silverback gorillas, very commonly will show their "toughness" by rushing the front of the exhibit and banging on the glass with their fists. This can be quite startling, particularly to guests that are not expecting it. Once I was walking through the gorilla house with one of the vets. We were walking fairly fast as we just wanted to check on the progress of one of the gorillas, then leave for the next thing on the schedule. Well, one of the big silverbacks saw us walk by in the hall. He immediately jumped up and rushed the glass, completely terrifying the guest who had been watching the previously calm and apparently docile animal. She backed up so fast she crashed right into us! It gets to the point that, in order to not overly stress the animals, the vets don't walk out past the exhibits unless they are dressed in very different clothing than the animals are used to seeing them in. So, if you want zoo animals to like you, become a keeper. They won't like you if you are the vet, no matter how much you like them!
It was a beautiful day here in Omaha today. It reached the 60s (it may even have broken 70) for the first time since last fall. All of the animals were clearly glad to have such warm weather. The American Black Bears were particularly rambunctious today. I'll end with several pictures of them wrestling.