How do zoo veterinarians get up close to the animals they need to treat?
Dr. Zoli Gyimesi, senior staff veterinarian at the Louisville Zoo, helps treat the 1,300 animals at the zoo, everything from invertebrates like tarantulas, to birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
Animals are trained to allow their keepers and the veterinarians to examine them. Animal training also decreases stress and provides enrichment for the animals, Gyimesi said. In some instances, training means the veterinarians don’t have to use anesthesia, he said, avoiding the risks that accompany that.
“When an animal cooperates with the keepers and the trainers – and that could be stepping on a scale, presenting a body part for evaluation, allowing us to touch or medicate them – that makes it so much easier to monitor and care for them,” he said.
The zoo offers preventative care such as vaccinations, pest and parasite control, and tuberculosis testing of susceptible animals. “You know, wild animals and zoo animals hide their disease so we try to be on the preventative end of things,” he said.
Food for the animals is stored in a commissary. Zookeeper Rebekah Vaile said every animal has a specific diet, whether it is yams, apples, and carrots for the elephants or alfalfa for the camels. A look at the whiteboard detailing the animal diets reveals a varied menu of mice and smelt, herring, knuckle bone and thigh bone.
“Our lion, Kenya, he’s getting 12 pounds of our feline diet right now. Our Amur tiger, he is getting 12 pounds of our feline diet and 2 pounds of our chunk meats. Each animal gets a very, very detailed diet,” she said. The Amur tiger is the largest living feline in the world.
Vaile said the zoo gets deliveries of fresh produce daily, a grain delivery weekly, and frozen rodents weekly.