Brushing a tiger’s teeth, cleaning a giraffe’s ear and trimming tortoise toes are all in a hard day’s work for zoo veterinarians and those training to become zoo veterinarians. The Sacramento Zoo plays a key role in the training of future zoo veterinarians. The very first zoological medicine residency program in the world, and longest continually running program can be found right here in your neighborhood. It was started at UC Davis in 1974 by Dr. Murray E. Fowler. As part of the training, this program includes providing veterinary care to the animals at the Sacramento Zoo.
Dr. Louden Wright is the Sacramento Zoo’s current veterinary resident. He is spending the first year of his residency at UC Davis/Sacramento Zoo, the second year will be at the San Diego Zoo, and the third year is the San Diego Zoo Safari Park and SeaWorld San Diego.
We wanted to get to know Dr. Wright a little better so we asked him a few questions and have shared his responses below:
1.Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am originally from Ashland City, Tennessee. It’s a very small town west of Nashville. Small to the tune of two stoplights and one gas station when I was growing up. I attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville for both my Bachelors of Science in Animal Science and my Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degrees. After graduating I completed a year-long internship in Small Animal Medicine and Surgery at the University of Wisconsin’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and then a year-long specialty internship in Zoological and Exotic Animal Medicine at Kansas State University’s Veterinary Health Center.
2. Why do you want to be a zoo veterinarian and what do you hope to accomplish in your future career?
It’s a job that I will never get bored with or have to worry about falling into a rhythm while doing. The variety of animals and situations which one encounters in such a position offers constant variety. My morning alone might include x-rays of an armadillo, examining a giraffe leg, wound repair on an Egyptian bat, and trying to figure out how to apply a splint to a flamingo leg. With all of this variety, there is always a new experience to be had and new information to be learned.
In terms of what I hope to accomplish, it relates back to how much there is still to learn about the species with which I get to work. With so much unknown about so many of the species, there is a bevy of information still to be discovered. What I hope to accomplish (during the residency and after) is, through research and experience, to help determine how we can better take care of such animals in human care, and use that knowledge to help take care of them in the wild.
3. Why UC Davis?
The zoo medicine residency through UC Davis provides the opportunity to obtain a breadth and depth of experience in the field of zoological medicine that isn’t available through any other program. At times throughout the residency, I get the chance to learn under mentors at top-tier institutions such as the Sacramento Zoo, the Marine Mammal Center, the San Diego Zoo, and the San Diego Safari Park. The volume and variety of experiences that the residents going through this program get to see prepares them very well for just about any job in the realm of zoological medicine.
4. What do you like to do outside of work/school?
Apart from studying? When I do have spare time, I prefer anything I can do outdoors. Hiking, camping, kayaking, fishing (though I’m quite bad at it)- really anything that gets me outside when the weather is decent. I also enjoy cooking. Really, I enjoy eating things that taste good and the cooking is more of a means to an end.
5. Do you have a favorite animal at the Sacramento Zoo?
Sukari, the eastern bongo, probably takes the cake as my favorite animal at the zoo. Bongo are large (500lbs+) antelope species that tend to be skittish and for the most part, avoid contact with humans. Sukari, who was receiving treatment for a hoof infection earlier this year, is the opposite of that. He doesn’t seem to pay attention when people are around unless you have one of his favorite food items in hand, in which case he is happy to greet you.
6. Any other interesting tidbits we should know about you?
I used to perform in Broadway-style musicals. The Music Man, Give My Regards To Broadway, Guys and Dolls, etc… I don’t do much of that anymore but can still carry the tune ’76 trombones’ quite well.