Vol. 52, No. 1, Spring 2013
Anteaters to Zebras
With more than 500 animals representing 140 species at the Sacramento Zoo, veterinarians have their hands full. They use their expertise to examine eyes, cure upset stomachs and make sure the large variety of animals at the Zoo stay in tip-top shape. We asked the veterinarians how they do what they do:
What is involved in an animal examination?
Nearly all of the animals at the Sacramento Zoo receive a routine examination once a year. Many of the animals have to be anesthetized before they can be examined so the risk of anesthesia enters into the decision on when and how to examine the animal. Some of the examinations occur at the animal's exhibit and some are performed at the veterinary hospital on Zoo grounds.
During an exam, each animal is given a thorough check-up from head to toe, including blood tests and routine vaccinations. Based upon the individual animal's medical history, any specific problems from the past are carefully rechecked.
What are the main differences between examining a domestic animal and an exotic zoo animal?
Unlike domestic animals, Zoo animals are wild. As a result, they are not accustomed to being handled and often have to be anesthetized for their safety and ours before being examined. Keeper staff at the Zoo are able to train many of the animals to tolerate limited examinations without anesthesia by using protected contact. For example, many animals are trained to stand on a scale so that we can monitor their body weight.
Another difference is that most veterinary equipment is not designed for an animal as large as a giraffe, so we might not be able to hear its heart well with a normal stethoscope. For a small bird, we might be able to complete a full exam in our hands, but are limited in the types of tests we can run. Most machines we use for blood analysis require more blood than we can safely collect from a very small animal.
Also, there are the differences between species. When dealing with dogs and cats, there are many resources addressing their normal anatomy and physiology that can be used to interpret x-rays and bloodwork. In zoos, you may have one or two individuals of a given species in a collection so some of that "baseline" information doesn't exist.
What are some of the health challenges exotic animals present?
The healthcare program at the Zoo provides excellent preventative medicine. In addition, we are also able to treat chronic medical conditions. One of the biggest challenges is getting animals to take their medications. Zookeepers and veterinary staff become extremely creative with ways of hiding medications in food.
What does it take to become a zoo veterinarian?
In partnership with UC Davis Wildlife Health Center, the Sacramento Zoo is training the veterinarians of the future. They gain experience in veterinary offices working with domestic animals while completing a four-year bachelor's degree in an animal-related field. Once accepted to a veterinary school (admission is highly competitive), students complete four years of training to become a general practitioner veterinarian. Becoming a zoo veterinarian generally requires additional training which may include one or more internships and a three-year residency program. After completing this, the veterinarian then takes a two-day examination to become a Zoological Medicine Specialist. There are less than 200 of these specialists in the United States.
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As a Zoo supporter, you most likely know that the Sacramento Zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). What you may not know is that we are inspected every five years and 2013 is an inspection year! A team of three examiners visited the Zoo in late January and we anticipate results when the Accreditation Commission meets in April.
AZA accreditation provides a critical stamp of approval to an organization that sets it apart from the many other animal facilities available to the public. The USDA lists over 2,400 facilities as licensed animal exhibitors but only 221 zoos and aquariums meet the rigorous standards necessary for becoming accredited by the AZA. Achieving this standard is a source of pride for both staff and the community, and it is critical to attracting and maintaining professional personnel.
The practical benefits include availability of animals at other AZA-accredited facilities. Since accreditation is the industry standard, animal policies are written based on this standard. Accreditation also assists in application for permits by providing instant recognition that certain criteria are being met.
The accreditation process itself involves every staff member. We have spent the last year or more reviewing policies and procedures and making necessary updates. Preparing for the inspection is somewhat daunting, but also exciting and a chance for all staff to appreciate the role they play in making the Sacramento Zoo successful.
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The Reptile House is now home to a Smooth-fronted Caiman, a crocodile species native to South Africa. This youngster is only two years old but as an adult he will reach between four and five feet long.
Shanti, the Zoo’s female Snow Leopard has been joined by a companion, Blizzard. The one-year-old Snow Leopard was born at the Granby Zoo in Canada and joined Shanti in December.
The Zoo’s two Wolf’s Guenons are proud first-time parents, showing off their newborn to Zoo guests the same day the baby was born, January 26, 2013. These African monkeys are named after their discoverer, Dr. Ludwig Wolf, and display bright yellow ear tufts and long tails.
Natasha, the Zoo’s youngest Mongoose Lemur, will be one year old on March 30th. She was born at the Sacramento Zoo, and her favorite treats are dried cranberries.
Photo by Mike Owyang
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Sacramento Zoo Calendar Sponsorship
Sponsor your favorite Zoo animal in the 2014 Sacramento Zoo calendar!
• Choose your favorite animal
• Choose your favorite photo of that animal
from photos taken by staff photographers
• Choose which month you would like your
animal featured in (subject to availability)
• Your name will appear on the calendar as a
A calendar sponsorship makes a great gift for a special occasion. A birthday or anniversary month can highlight a favorite Zoo animal for a beloved family member or friend … or just treat yourself!
For more information or to reserve your animal and month, call 916-808-3713 or email Pam Williams.
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Summer Camp at the Sacramento Zoo
Explore your Zoo like you never have before! If you love animals and the environment, this day camp is definitely for you. Enjoy learning about the animals at the Zoo and around the world by seeing, hearing, smelling (peeeyuuu!), and even touching and feeding some of them! Dive into the world of animals through songs, games, crafts, and other fun activities.
Tuesday, March 19th – Registration for Members
Tuesday, April 2nd – General Registration
Visit the Summer Camp page for more information on classes and registration.
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Estate Planning Safari
Protect Your Nest Egg
Saturday, April 13
10:30 am – Noon
This free informative seminar will navigate through a jungle of estate planning topics presented by local attorney Mark S. Drobny, California State Bar Certified Legal Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust and Probate Law. Mr. Drobny is widely regarded as one of the top experts on estate planning, providing information on a variety of topics in an entertaining manner that will help you design a plan that fits your needs.
Topics will include, but are not limited to:
- Living Trusts vs. Wills
- Probate – How Can it be Avoided?
- Who Needs Durable Powers of Attorney for Financial Management and Advance Health Care Directives?
- Charitable Gift Annuities
Seating is limited. Email Pam Williams or call 916-808-3713 by Friday, January 18, to guarantee your seat.
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Swingin' Safari Golf Tournament
Presented by Nacht & Lewis Architects
Monday, May 20
El Macero Country Club
11:30 am – 7 pm
The 12th annual golf tournament supports the Sacramento Zoological Society's educational programs. Every year, the education programs at the Zoo reach students of all ages with on-site programming and community outreach. Your support will expand the Zoo's role as an educational and recreational facility for the community to enjoy.
Putt around a tortoise, snake and hedgehog to benefit the Sacramento Zoo’s Education programs! Lunch and dinner included.
For registration and sponsorship information, go to the Swingin' Safari page or call 916-808-5886.
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