More than a Hospital

[dcwsb inline="true"]

Zoo InternQuest is a seven-week career exploration program for San Diego County high school juniors and seniors. Students have the unique opportunity to meet professionals working for the San Diego Zoo, Safari Park, and Institute for Conservation Research, learn about their jobs and then blog about their experience online. Follow their adventures here on the Zoo’s website!

victoria_W4_picEvery morning, the dietary needs, health, and happiness of the animals are the top priority for the hospital staff at the San Diego Zoo. Kirstin Clapham, Senior Hospital Keeper, participates in daily meetings to discuss animals’ needs before she begins her daily routine of caring for the animals in the hospital.

One of the things Ms. Clapham wanted to make clear was that just because an animal is in The Jennings Center for Zoological Medicine at the San Diego Zoo, that doesn’t mean it’s extremely sick. In fact, most of the animals at the hospital are either new to the Zoo or their exhibit is under construction. Ms. Clapham even described the hospital as a “spa” for the dozens of animals she works with. There are numerous kinds of animals that enjoy the “spa treatment,” from hummingbirds to tigers. Zookeepers provide proper meals to the animals depending on their dietary needs and make their enclosure comfortable for them. There are seven veterinarians in the Zoos’ hospital along with six veterinary technicians and five zookeepers. A useful tool for the hospital staff members is their monitoring system. There are sixteen cameras set up around the hospital enclosure which allows zookeepers to monitor the animals without having to obscure them directly. It eliminates stress for the animal and also allows keepers to keep tabs on whether an animal has eaten its food, taken its medication, or is able to move and recover normally after a procedure.

Within the hospital, there are five departments: Pathology, Zoo Vet Services, WAP Vet Services, Wildlife Disease Lab, and Nutrition. All of these departments have at least one thing in common – their desire to help the animals in their care. Ms. Clapham explained when an animal is on the surgical table, different departments ask for information in order to help their studies. If a polar bear undergoes a procedure, the Zoo Vet Services Department may ask for a sample of the bear’s cells for their research. By providing this information, all the departments in the hospital are able to expand their research and hopefully increase their knowledge of the species.

Along with doing daily tasks such as providing the proper food and medicine to the animals, Ms. Clapham is involved in conservation projects to help endangered animals. One of her projects is designed to help the loggerhead shrikes located on San Clemente Island and increase their population. Ms. Clapham takes part in the project by analyzing the deceased animals that are brought to her lab for analysis. If she can help identify the cause of death this might allow researchers to prevent deaths in the future. For example, California condors have experienced progressive growth since conservation researchers found new ways to help expand the population. With the hospitals help, they were able to conclude that California condors usually die from lead poisoning. Thus, they were able to make recommendations prevent deaths like this from happening in the future.

With the help from the zookeepers at the hospital, animals such as California condors and loggerhead shrikes have been brought to the public’s attention and have been receiving the help they need. Whether they are specifically working on conservation programs or performing their regular routines at the hospital, hospital members such as Ms. Clapham have helped the conservation of numerous animals and their population. People like Ms. Clapham are able to save dozens of animals by doing daily tasks along with engaging in conservation programs. If they can dedicate their entire job to helping animals, what can you do? Even small changes can make a major difference.

Victoria, Conservation Team
Week Four, Winter Season 2013