How our zoo vets and keepers care for our aging animals

Hey buddy! So as zoo vets, our primary role here is to look after the health and well-being of our animals, so we work
with the keepers constantly to make sure that our animals have a really high
level of welfare. The species we have are advocates for their wild counterparts,
but actually most of the species that we look after have lived much much longer
than animals do in the wild. So we do regular vet checks on the two seals that we’ve got. The reason we do that is because they’re getting a little bit
older in age and they’ve got some long-term issues that we’re monitoring
to make sure that they’re not affecting their overall quality of life. His front left flipper here is the one
that was hit by a boat as a pup and that’s why he came in as he’s got permanent
damage to that limb but he seems to cope really well. He also surely after he
arrived, developed this severe left eye injury. Good! Good boy! For us we’ve had to make quite a few
changes, in terms of how we work with him and that’s about changing those
visual cues to verbal or physical cues and luckily for us he’s a real smart
cookie and so he’s actually doing really well and when we do like to change the
environment, instead of it being a surprise for him now, we like to take him
around and show him and that helps him gain a bit of a better perspective as
he’s moving around and keeps him safer as well. One of the problems in zoo and
wild animals is that they can hide the fact that they’re unwell so if they’ve
just got a little bit of a sore knee they don’t always show that very
obviously, so this is where the skill of the keepers comes into play. They
know their animals intimately and they can try and detect those signs as early
as possible. Hey so this is Herod, this is our male
Tasmanian Devil here we have at Auckland Zoo and he is 6 years old so
that’s what we would consider a geriatric animal here at the zoo.
Devils in the wild would live anywhere from sort of 5 to 6 years old and in captivity it can
just be a little bit more. Herod! What’s this? So it’s kind of good to see him eat like this,
it’s just a little good indicator that he’s hungry and he’s not lazy or he just
runs off. So it’s kind of good to give him a little bit of a play, a little bit
of tug-of-war and then he’ll get it as a reward. So mainly it’s just checking that
your animals normal. Is he doing what he normally does? Is he behaving like he
normally is? Anything different then obviously you want to look a little bit
further, look a bit closer, that’s why we, especially with our older animals, we do
take a lot of care and a lot of time just to take that closer look. There’s a number of diseases that become much more likely for older animals to suffer as,
they get into their later years. Sometimes in older zoo animals, in spite
of all the ways we can observe them and the preventative health that we provide, we
still want to look a bit closer and evaluate their health with more
diagnostics and in many of our animals that does involve anesthetizing them. So Molek is one of our geriatric tigers here at Auckland Zoo. She’s currently 18
years old, so getting there on an old age for a cat and we really need to monitor
her because she is in captivity we want to make sure that we’re giving her the
best welfare we possibly can. Do you want to do training? You can! Good! You’re okay! Good girl! So our back of house
area is designed for practicality. It does allow us to get nice and close to
our cats, as well as having that protective barrier, because we have to be
able to do these kind of old age health checks with the vets to make sure
everything is working as we think it is. So to get her trained and inject-able in
the crush, it allows us to do more checkups and make sure she is nice and
healthy. You ready? 1 mil of saline and inject in. Needles out. Good girl! Just so it imitates as if they were
having a proper general anesthetic because on the day, they are gonna be
injected with sometimes a couple of mils of some sedatives to get them to go to
sleep nice and calmly. She last had a health check two years ago and that was
all good, so it may be in the coming months that we need to revisit that and re-x-ray all her joints and do a full health assessment and make sure she’s
continuing to be healthy in her old age. One of the hardest parts of our job is
having to euthanize geriatric animals. These are animals that the
animal teams and sometimes even vets have looked after for years and it might
sound an odd statement but actually we euthanize these animals because we care
and we as vets care deeply about our patients and is one of the harder parts
of our job to deal with but it’s actually one of the most important jobs
that we can do in an animal’s life is choosing when to step in to prevent
them suffering.

1 Comment

  1. yenee94 October 17, 2018 at 4:22 pm

    So sweet!

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