Today was quite a busy day! We spent most of the morning out at the Lee G. Simmons Conservation Park and Wildlife Safari which is part of the HDZ. It is about a 25 minute drive west of the zoo itself, and here is where you can see many of the major North American animals in a natural setting. Elk, bison, wolves, pronghorn, and other animals roam in large, open enclosures (separated for safety and management, of course) and guests can drive through. It is closed right now for the winter, but will be opening on March 31st. It is a very beautiful area of mixed wooded hills and open meadows.
Our first patient at the park was a female bald eagle. She was brought in by Betsy Finch, a raptor rehabilitator who has been doing this sort of work for many years, and is very well-respected in the community. This beautiful eagle came to her severely undernourished, but is now the healthy and vital bird you see in the picture. She is probably about 2 years old, and will not get the distinguishing white head and tail, yellow beak and black body and wings until she matures around the age of 5 or 6. We were taking a look at her today because she had a wing droop, and there was worry she may have a fracture. Radiographs of her wings were taken and actually revealed some old fractures that had healed as well as they could, and shouldn't prevent the eagle from flying normally. Great news! The plan for her now that she is doing so well is to move her to a larger cage, and let her start building up her flying muscles and skills until she can be released. The picture at left is Betsy holding the eagle. I was amazed at how big she was! I had never touched an eagle before, let alone palpated its wings looking for fractures. What an amazing animal!
Our next patient at "the farm" (as the park is called by the staff) was a reindeer. She is going to be travelling to another institution, so she needed her routine pre-shipment brucellosis and tuberculosis testing done. Yes, there is a reindeer in that picture. You can see her antler sticking up near the top. And this is a good as time as any to remind you that the reindeer who pull Santa's sleigh are all actually female since the males shed their antlers in winter. ;)
There are areas of the farm that are also used as holding for animals going through quarantine before being mixed with zoo populations. A few of the interesting ones include the Addax who arrived a few days ago as was mentioned here, and a bearded pig fondly named "Link." (I'm not sure where the name came from).
Our next patients were two Geoffrey's marmosets who needed radiographs taken in order to investigate possibly nutrition-related limb deformities. The zoo has a conventional table-top radiography machine for "normal-sized" (whatever that means in a zoo ;) ) radiographs, but for the small critters, they also have a mammography machine. This machine gives us radiographs that are typically much clearer for these small creatures, and the quality is amazing! The picture at left shows one of the marmoset's in the highly sophisticated induction chamber...yep, that is an old Coke bottle. The bottom black portion comes off so you can fit your small creature in there, and the tube with the gas fits rather nicely into the other end. There are commercially available small induction chambers, but they aren't small enough for many of the critters at the zoo. You end up spending more time and wasting more anesthetic agent filling up the larger chambers, so this little one does very well. Once the patient is sleepy enough, they are taken out of the chamber and their head is placed in a more conventional mask pictured at right. Fortunately for these guys, they did not have the major limb deformities that was the concern. These radiographs were done more as a screening step to make sure they weren't developing the same problems that had been seen in others in the past.
The rest of the day I spent practicing darting! This post has already gotten fairly long, so I will save my promised darting discussion for a later date. Stay tuned!
And now for the random picture of the day: here is an adorable Parma Wallaby joey!