May 2011 proved to be a busy month for Woodland Park Zoo’s veterinary staff. Caring for a collection of more than a thousand animals, of course, guarantees a full waiting room, but a few cases were particularly notable.
Take the story of Kyle, a six-year-old patas monkey who usually spends his day on the turf in the Savannah Exhibit. Kyle was suffering from a bone infection in his right shoulder–an infection that refused to back down despite antibiotic treatments.
Fearing that the infection would spread in Kyle’s body and put him in even greater danger, the zoo’s animal-health staff and Kyle’s keepers determined that amputation was the best course of action. Amputating the afflicted right arm would put a halt to the raging infection and allow Kyle to return to a healthy and pain-free life on the savannah with his mate, Alexa.
After recuperating in the Animal Health Complex, Kyle quickly adapted to his new three-limbed lifestyle and has adjusted to scampering and climbing. Moreover, blood tests show that his body is now free of all infection.
Meanwhile, over in a completely different habitat, Diablo the Chilean penguin felt a sharp pain in his belly–or so one assumes after seeing the size of the bobby pin lodged in his gut.
The first indication that something was wrong: Diabo wasn’t feeding with gusto and was even losing weight. Acting on a hunch, his keepers used a metal detector wand (much like ones used at airports) to find out if he’d swallowed something that was blocking his gastrointestinal tract.
The metal detector’s beep signaled that their hunch was correct, so the next step was to take Diablo to the zoo’s vets and check him out. X-rays pinpointed the penguin’s painful problem. Because Diablo had been anesthetized prior to X-raying, he was all ready for the next stage, the removal of the offending item via endoscope.
A round of antibiotics later, Diablo was released back into his exhibit, ready to dive, swim, and feed with his cohorts once more. Zoo staff figure that the bobby pin fell into the exhibit when someone leaned over the wall but seized the moment to remind visitors not to throw any objects into any exhibits. The penguin pool is an especially unfortunate choice, because penguins are naturally curious and will investigate and swallow coins and other objects, often with fatal consequences.
Even with a crack animal-health team and the most advanced medical equipment on hand, however, a zoo is bound to suffer fatalities in its collection, and so it was at Woodland Park Zoo when a female Steller’s sea eagle had to be euthanized.
The eagle, one of two loaned from San Diego Zoo, arrived in December with a wing injury she’d first sustained several yeras ago. The bird had learned to maneuver adequately with her fractured wing, but after a bad landing in her exhibit one day, she reinjured the weakness.
Bone stabilization surgery was quickly done to set her right, followed by an extended hospital recovery, but despite excellent care, the eagle’s bone refused to heal properly. She was euthanized in order to spare her pain and suffering. Unlike Kyle the patas monkey, who nimbly gets around on three legs, the eagle could not survive with just one wing as she would’ve been completely unable to balance on perches.
Zoo staff hope to locate another female Steller’s sea eagle to pair up with the remaining male.