- How is a zoo vet different from my puppy's vet?
OverviewOne of the most important people at any zoo is the veterinarian. Though zoo vets and domestic animal vets go to school for the same amount of time, zoo vets must be familiar with the anatomy and physiology of many more species of animals; thousands in some cases. A zoo vet must know how to take and read xrays of a giraffe's neck or a crocodile's tail, whether a snake´s vertebrae is developing correctly, where the best place is to give a shot to an elephant, and much more. Zoo vets make regular visits to every animal enclosure and discuss potential health concerns with zookeepers, who are usually the first to notice if an animal is sick or injured. Wild animals in captivity need periodic checkups and vaccinations. The vet must carefully examine each animal´s coat or skin, teeth, ears, eyes, heart, and lungs. Different animals need different preventive care. For example, unlike humans, whose teeth stop growing when they reach a certain size, some animals (like rabbits) have teeth that keep growing but are naturally ground down in the wild by what the animal chews. Zoo vets must grind these animals teeth down or make certain that they have appropriate items to chew. Because the wild animals in zoos and aquariums are so exotic, their diseases can be, too. Sometimes an animal may suffer from a disease never before seen in its species. And sometimes one species of animal may transmit a treatable disease to another species in whom that disease is incurable. A zoo is a collection of ecosystems and wild animal species. To ensure healthy animals, all aspects of their living space must be just right. Zoo vets are instrumental in exhibit design because they can detect health problems linked to the anxiety level of an animal in a too small or crowded space. Zoos and aquariums throughout the world share information on breeding of captive animals. In an effort to eliminate the capture of wild animals for zoos, these institutions plan their breeding programs for the good of wild animals everywhere. Family trees are kept to ensure that animals from different ancestry breed together (in-breeding can pass genetic diseases down through the generations). Vets determine when a female is ready to breed, monitor the pregnancy, and, when necessary, help deliver the young. Often veterinarians specialize. Some specialty areas include cardiology, epidemiology, neurology, surgery, dentistry, ophthalmology, and radiology. Specialists in these and other fields are helping captive animals live healthier and longer lives.
ActivityZoo vets work closely with zoo planners and other zoo staff to determine the healthiest environment for each species. Study two animals to determine how to provide the best ecosystem for them. Design an area of the zoo for them to live in. Plan each ecosystem design to a common scale so that the final product combines the work of each group to create a classroom zoo. Use any resources available (text, software, Web sites, zoo staff, etc.) as you gather information for data logs. If time allows, each group will use recycling supplies (cardboard, cans, etc.) and other supplies (clay, feathers, sticks) to create the animals and habitats for the zoo. Materials
- 6 North Pennel Road
Media, PA 19063
National Wildlife Federation
1400 Sixteenth Street, NW
Washington, DC 20036
The Electronic Zoo
ZooNet-All About Zoos
The University of Michigan Museum of Zoology's Animal Diversity Web