Training animals in zoos is not just about enrichment – although that is certainly a worthy aim. Increasingly, trainers are working with veterinarians to condition animals for medical examinations and even therapy.
The benefits are obvious – being able to undergo diagnostic tests and treatments without the need for sedation and general anaesthesia minimises the potential for iatrogenic harm and builds a bond between the patient and veterinary team. But staff at Oregon Zoo in the United States discovered another benefit when their efforts to assist an aging otter went viral in a public relations coup.
The patient, a 15 year old male neutered southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis), was admitted for a routine veterinary examination last year. Eddie has lived at the zoo since he was abandoned off the California coast as a pup. According to zoo experts, he would not have survived otherwise. Continue reading Slam dunk for otter health!
Urban sprawl may allow us to actualise the “great Aussie dream” of a big house with a big back yard, but at worst it can be a nightmare for our wildlife, with motor-vehicle accidents and predation by domestic animals resulting in countless injuries and fatalities daily.
According to Robert Johnson, based at South Penrith Veterinary Clinic in Western Sydney, veterinarians play an important role in treating and rehabilitating wildlife that has come off second best in such encounters.
Jane Doe, a female pink-tongued skink (Cyclodomorphus gerrardii) presented to Johnson following a dog attack in a suburban back yard. For the uninitiated, pink tongued skinks are extremely similar in appearance to Eastern Blue-Tongue lizards, distinguished by a more slender body, a narrower tail, striking cross-band markings and of course a pink – as opposed to blue – tongue, hence the name. They’re just a lot less common. Continue reading An emergency caesarean with a twist
There’s something exciting about exploratory abdominal surgery. Whether you’re in small animal, large animal or exotics practice, you can’t always predict whether the procedure will be routine or whether you will “peek and shriek”, to borrow an increasingly popular phrase being bandied around at veterinary conferences and surgery workshops.
That element of the unknown is increased when dealing with wildlife species which traditionally receive less veterinary intervention – often not until they are at death’s door.
Wildlife species bred in captivity are monitored closely and represent a population for whom veterinary access and intervention are more accessible and potentially more timely. But when things go wrong with a captive-bred animal which just happens to be an endangered species, whose ongoing health and reproductive capacity is vital not only for the individual animal but for the future of their kind, there’s additional pressure to restore the animal to perfect health. Continue reading Clinical Zoo: Helping out a gecko with no name
Photo: Taronga Zoo
When three Sumatran tiger cubs were born at Taronga Zoo on a cold August morning last year, keepers and veterinarians breathed a sigh of relief.
Sumatran Tigers are critically endangered, with as few as 400 estimated to be living in the wild. Only seven per cent of their original habitat remains, with palm oil plantations the major threat to the forests they live in. On top of that, tiger body parts continue to be used in traditional medicines, and tiger pelts fetch high prices on the black market. In fact, so great is the demand for tiger pelts that in 2009 a female tiger was poisoned, killed and skinned while in an exhibit at Rimbo Zoo in Indonesia (a suspect has since been arrested).
For these reasons, Taronga’s three cubs represent a staggering one per cent of the existing Sumatran Tiger population. Over the years the Zoo has made a significant contribution to Sumatran Tiger conservation, with the breeding program yielding 30 tigers since 1979. But the lead up to this birth wasn’t straightforward.
Father Satu was imported from Stuttgart Germany at the age of 18 months as part of the international zoo breeding program for Sumatran Tigers. Too young to breed, he spent around 18 months acclimatising at Western Plains Zoo before arriving at Taronga Zoo in January 2008.
When he did arrive he was kept in his own enclosure, as tigers are generally solitary animals. However, he had auditory and olfactory contact with Jumilah and was allowed into her enclosure when she was in oestrus. Continue reading Clinical Zoo: Tales from the tiger boudoir
Testicular tumours are a relatively common affliction of older, intact male dogs seen in small animal practice. Seminomas, Sertoli cell tumours and interstitial cell tumours occur with roughly equal frequency. The incidence of tumours increases by 13-fold in cryptorchid testicles.
Not surprisingly, exotics are prone to similar afflictions, although the incidence of testicular tumours in reptile species is not well known. Continue reading Clinical Zoo: Chase the dragon!
Australian veterinarians, nurses and wildlife carers are adept at hand-rearing orphaned native mammals. Various species of possum, wallaby, kangaroo, bat and glider have been successfully reared and released into thewild.
Any carer will tell you that once the novelty wears off, hand rearing is hard work. Often requiring feeds spaced one to two hours apart, their tiny charges require plenty of dedication and sleep deprivation.
But as Top End veterinary nurses Caroline Francis and Tess Cooper discovered, that’s not quite the case when it comes to raising an orphaned short-beaked echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus).
The echidna in question, nicknamed Makka Pakka after a character from the ABC’s In the Night Garden, was found in the pouch of his injured mother who was rushed to the Ark Animal Hospital in Palmerston, just out of Darwin. Initially Makka’s mother received veterinary care, but it became clear that she was not responding.
“She had suffered from trauma including major injuries to her digging toes and her condition was deteriorating,” Francis said. “She was losing weight drastically and she reached a stage where she just unfolded her pouch and wouldn’t or couldn’t let him back in.” Continue reading Puggle in progress
Rescuing Moon bears from China’s infamous bile farms was always going to be a harrowing experience. Whichever way you look at it the practice of bile farming is brutal and inhumane. But Animal’s Asia senior veterinarian Heather Bacon is hopeful for the future of the bears – and wouldn’t trade her position for the world.
The Animals Asia Foundation is a Hong Kong-based animal welfare charity founded by Jill Robinson in 1998. While it runs a broad range of animal welfare programs, the most prominent is the rescue and rehabilitation of Asiatic black bears (Ursus selenarctos) which are farmed for their bile. Asiatic black bears, also known as Moon bears, are listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Appendix 1, the most critical category of endangerment. There may be as few as 16,000 in the wild – but it is estimated that up to 7000 are kept in bile farms in China alone. Continue reading Clinical Zoo: Setting free the bears