Once a year there is an event at the Sacramento Zoo that is unlike any other. After weeks of preparation, zookeepers and veterinarians are mobilized for the annual Flamingo Roundup! At the roundup, each of the Zoo’s 36 Caribbean Flamingos receives an annual health checkup.
On March 16, zookeepers will come into work early to start the set-up process. Various shade cloth “walls” are placed around the lake areas to keep flamingos in only certain areas. An animal chute made of shade cloth walls is erected in the breeding area that will hold the entire group. The flamingos are then “moved” by staff holding shade cloth “walls” and slowly moved into the chute. This will all be done with the upmost orchestrated stealth and silence so as not to alert the flock to fishy behavior or create stress. Quietly waiting out of sight will be a team of zookeepers, 5 Zoo veterinarians, 3 registered veterinary technicians and 10 veterinary students from UC Davis.
Zookeepers go into the chute one or two at a time and each pick up one flamingo. This is a very delicate operation as these bird’s legs are fragile. The first station a bird is taken to is the scale; the bird’s weight is recorded on an information card and the bird’s ID is confirmed using the ID band found on its leg and an implanted transponder (microchip). The flamingo, while still being held by a zookeeper, then moves to the second station for a general check-up; a veterinarian checks out the bird’s beak, legs, toes, wings, feathers, eyes, ears, and everything in between. A blood sample is drawn for a complete blood cell count and plasma chemistry analysis. Each bird receives a West Nile Virus vaccine and anthelminic (worming medication). Once finished, the flamingo is carefully released back into the exhibit, where it gets to join the other flamingos that have already been checked.
Visit the Zoo this Thursday between 9 and 10:30 am to see a flamingo exam in action.