The Chicago Zoological Society has a team of dedicated veterinary professionals committed to maintaining the health and well-being of all the animals at Brookfield Zoo is a big task. The Veterinary Services Department is quick to provide medical and surgical care whenever problems arise in an animal, but the veterinary staff actually spends most of their time preventing medical problems from occurring in the first place through a robust, comprehensive preventative medicine program.
Animals at the zoo receive routine examinations, testing, and close monitoring as part of the zoo’s preventative medicine program. Very similar to an “annual check-up” that a person has with their doctor, the zoo’s animals are checked on a regular basis at the zoo’s cutting edge Animal Hospital. The zoo’s hospital features advanced imaging equipment like ultrasound and a CT (CAT) scanner to help diagnose problems, a complete laboratory for analysis of blood and other samples, advanced equipment for monitoring anesthesia, and even an intensive care unit for animals that must be hospitalized for special care.
The zoo’s veterinarians work closely within the Center for the Science of Animal Welfare to collaborate with other professionals at the zoo to take a holistic approach to ensuring optimal care for all the animals at the zoo. Animal care staff monitor their animals closely every day and work very closely with the veterinary staff.
The zoo’s veterinarians collaborate closely with colleagues around the world at other zoos. They are also highly involved in professional organizations to share the information they gain on advancing healthcare in zoo animals and wildlife. Through a collaborative pathology program with the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine, the veterinarians also analyze data when animals eventually die to help monitor disease trends (for instance, did you know that many animals are also susceptible to West Nile virus and it can be a concern in wildlife just like people?).
Veterinary Services staff are actively engaged in training programs to educate the next generation of zoo veterinarians and veterinary technicians. Among these is a program with the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine to train veterinary students, as well as the Illinois Zoological and Aquatic Animal Residency Program, which is an internationally recognized collaboration between CZS, the University of Illinois, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the John G. Shedd Aquarium.
CZS veterinarians also use the skills and knowledge they gain from working with zoo animals to benefit field programs working with wildlife. Staff is involved in conservation programs around the world – lending help to wildlife like bottlenose dolphins in Florida and penguins in Peru. The department also plays a key role in the conservation of free-ranging wildlife closer to home in Cook County, working closely with the Cook County Department of Animal and Rabies Control.