Blog: Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare

Delicate Care for Rare Bird

Dr. Mike Adkesson with Micronesian Kingfisher at Brookfied Zoo

Every day as part of my job I’m surrounded by amazing animals, many of which are critically endangered in their natural habitats.  Some days, such as today, I even provide veterinary care to animals that have gone extinct in the wild.  The Micronesian kingfisher was once plentiful on the island of Guam, but its population was decimated following the introduction of brown tree snakes to the island in the 1940’s.  By 1988, the snake had completely eliminated all the wild kingfishers.  Prior to the bird going completely extinct, the government captured 29 of the last birds and placed them under professional care in zoos.  Through careful animal management, veterinary care, and successful breeding, there are now over 150 of the birds in zoos.
 
Today I performed veterinary exams on two kingfishers that are new to our group here at the zoo.  Brookfield Zoo is home to 9 kingfishers that are part of a multi-zoo program called a Species Survival Plan, which aims to grow the population and eventually reintroduce birds to the wild. 

Veterinary exam of Micronesian kingfisher at Brookfield Zoo

The health and well-being of these birds depends on the care of our passionate veterinary and animal care staff.  When at the hospital for an exam, these birds receive a physical exam, blood tests, x-rays, and a thorough assessment.  Gas anesthesia allows all this to occur quickly in a non-stressful manner.  From less than 1/10 of a teaspoon of blood, I can run a full panel of blood tests that evaluate the bird’s health and organ function.  The x-rays give me a look at internal organs, airways, and of course the bones.
 
To put things in a sobering perspective, today our veterinary team cared for over 1% of the Guam kingfishers alive in the entire world.  It’s a responsibility we take extremely seriously.  Without zoos and conservation programs, this beautiful and amazing bird species would be gone forever.  The kingfishers we examined today are in great health and we obtained important baseline medical information on the animals to help us monitor their health over time.  Ensuring these birds stay healthy is just one way our veterinary team is making a difference.
 
Dr. Mike Adkesson
Vice President, Clinical Medicine
 

Posted: 7/15/2015 2:29:22 PM by Steve Pine


Center for the Science of Animal Care and Welfare

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