Helping the Hellbender

hellbender at Brookfield Zoo

Helping the Hellbender…

One of the best things about working as a zoo veterinarian is being able to help conserve wildlife at all levels.  Whether it’s an endangered snow leopard or an endangered hellbender, all the animals at Brookfield Zoo receive state of the art medical care.

Although they may not be the most charismatic animal, hellbenders are a charming animal in their own right and their populations are really struggling in the wild.  Also known as snot otters, mud dogs, and Allegheny alligators - hellbenders are a unique, giant aquatic salamander.  In recent years, there have been dramatic declines in the size of wild populations due to many causes, such as disruption of rivers and pollution.  Zoos are now entrenched in multiple conservation programs battling to save this special animal from extinction.

Last week our veterinary team completed examinations on several hellbenders that recently arrived from another zoo.  You may be asking how can you examine such a slippery, squishy animal?  In reality, we actually can do many of the same procedures we would complete on any other animal, such as that endangered snow leopard I mentioned earlier.  Each hellbender had blood collected from a vein in their tail to provide an assessment of overall health.  We took x-rays of each animal to assess their skeleton and lungs.  An ultrasound exam allowed us a close look at their organs and determined their gender (males and females look the same externally). 

All of the animals were in great health and are adjusting very well to their new home.  Be sure to come see the hellbenders in their new home in Reptiles and Birds.  And remember that taking even small actions such as recycling, decreasing environmental pollution, and supporting conservation organizations like CZS can allow you to also Help the Hellbender!

Dr. Mike Adkesson
Vice President, Clinical Medicine

Posted: 8/11/2015 4:06:38 PM by Bryan Todd Oakley Filed under: animal hospital, animal welfare, Dr. Mike Adkeeson, hellbender

CZS & Brookfield Zoo

Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Chicago Zoological Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world. Learn more about the animals, people, and research that make up CZS here at our blog.


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