Slam dunk for otter health!

Sea Otter HoopsTraining 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!

An emergency caesarean with a twist

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

Clinical Zoo: Helping out a gecko with no name

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

Clinical Zoo: Tales from the tiger boudoir

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

Clinical Zoo: Chase the dragon!

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!