Thursday, March 1, 2007

March Came in Like A Lion!

Highly appropriate, I suppose. Overnight, the worst blizzard in 10 years hit the Omaha area. We got about 12” overnight and through this afternoon. But the falling snow wasn’t the bad thing…the blowing of it was. While it may have snowed a foot, we had to battle our way through 3 foot high drifts in places. And there was a lovely layer of crystal clear ice under it all. It was enough to cancel everything in the region today and tomorrow and close even the interstate highways. Pictured at left is the view outside the window of the hospital lab at about 8 am this morning. By then, we had only gotten about half of what we finally got, but you can appreciate the blowing nature of it.

And the zoo was closed as well, or the guest service portions of it, anyway. Naturally, all of the keepers and other people who work with the animals came in, and that includes the vets! Many in the animal caretaking staff actually like days like today. The HDZ is open 362 days a year (only closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Day), so there are essentially always visitors. Days like today give them the opportunity to catch up on a lot of things, particularly exhibit maintenance-wise. Everything can get an especially good cleaning, repairs can be made and systems updated. So while the zoo was closed to the public, it was busy inside! And you can contrast the picture of the outside above with the inside of the jungle to the right. No blizzard worries in here!

Our day was spent mostly dealing with some animals from the jungle area. First we took a look at a Tiger Ratsnake who hasn’t been acting normally. The keepers working with their charges know the normal habits and behaviors of their creatures and any change in either of these is noticed. This particular snake simply was not as bright and active as he usually was, so they asked if we could come and take a look at him. He was quite an impressive fellow as you can see from the pictures (unfortunately the one of his head got blurry, and I missed his head on the other, but you can see how beautiful he is!). He was about 7 feet long!

Next we took a look at a little iguana (I forgot the actual species at present!). She had sustained a severe injury to her left front leg several weeks ago when she was attacked by another iguana, and we were just taking a look at her progress. As you can tell (because it is not very impressive) it looks fantastic! She has a little bit of scarring on that leg as well as some residual inflammation, but there are no open wounds and she has full use and range of motion in the limb. And behind her, you can also see her breakfast in her cage. Looks pretty tasty!

The next patient was a 19 year old clouded leopard by the name of Marv. His keepers were concerned because he had started licking at a small wound on his right hip (as cats are particularly wont to do) and was making it worse. The decision was made to go ahead and anesthetize him so that a surgical debridment and repair of the area could be done to hopefully fix the problem. While he was under, we went ahead and did his yearly physical. Not only did he get his injury taken care of, he got his teeth cleaned, he was brought up-to-date on his vaccinations, some blood was drawn for analysis and banking, and he got a complete physical. The first picture shows Dr. Napier and the keeper working on him. You can see how long and beautiful his tail is! The other picture shows one of the techs getting ready to draw blood. I got to draw blood on him as well (and got some!) as well as help with the cleaning and suturing of the wound and some of the other physical procedures. He is a very neat cat!
For most of the rest of the afternoon, I finished the big cat vaccination project. Now it is all done, from “Bobby” the Bobcat through “Kali” the Sumatran tiger. It was a great opportunity to go through all of their files and become more familiar with the common medical procedures that are done in big cats as well as some of the more interesting history behind some of the individual cats as well. One of the more memorable is a puma by the name of “3 Dogs Running.” He was a wild-caught cat that needed to be relocated, and it was decided he would do best in a zoo setting. When animal control had darted him and were transporting him, they saw three dogs running beside the road, so that is how he got his name.

And we’ll end today with these three Scarlet Macaws relaxing in their tropical Omaha!

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