Interns Get a Lesson in Getting Rid of Parasites

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Zoo InternQuest is a career exploration program for high school students. For more information see the Zoo InternQuest Journals. For more photos see the Zoo InternQuest Photo Journal.

It was a long hike up the hill leading to the vet hospital at the San Diego Zoo, but when we finally made it to the top, it was well worth it. Laura Keener, Senior Clinical Pathology Laboratory Manager, led us on a brief tour of the facility. We visited the quarantine screening section where a huge sloth bear was pacing back and forth. Every animal that enters the zoo is sent to the hospital for a minimum of 30 days in quarantine. During this quarantine period, the clinical pathologists examine the animals thoroughly and monitor for diseases and parasites by analyzing samples of blood, body fluids, feces, and/or urine. Once the animals are deemed healthy, they can be placed into a zoo enclosure.

While monitoring animals in quaratine, Ms. Keener and her team must also keep an eye on the animals already in the zoo. There are numerous ways for outside diseases and parasites to impact zoo animals. Deceased wildlife such as birds or squirrels must be collected and tested immediately for diseases. Unfortunately, many people will bring animals into the zoo in hopes of leaving them there for the zoo to take responsibility for. Of course, the zoo is happy to care for abandoned animals, however, it presents a very dangerous situation when animals enter the zoo without first being tested for diseases. That’s where YOU come in!

If you’ve been wondering what you can do to help clinical pathologists at the zoo (and I know you have been), here’s your answer: Don’t bring outside animals (including pets, strays, and wildlife) into the zoo. It’s as simple as that! As Ms. Keener continuously stressed, it’s all about being educated. Educate yourself, your family, and your friends about the dangers of introducing outside animals into the zoo. If you really want to become educated on how you can help keep the animals in the zoo safe from diseases and parasites, look into volunteering opportunities that will directly benefit the clinical laboratory. Of course, when all else fails, donations to the non-profit San Diego Zoo are always beneficial.

Eric, Real World Team