June 28, 2012
Maintaining animal health is the foundation of zoo keeping. Some animals, like orangutans, can present a challenge for zoo veterinarians. That's why Fort Wayne Children's Zoo vet Dr. Joe Smith recently gathered about 40 veterinarians and orangutan experts from around the world for an Orangutan Health Workshop in Fort Worth, Texas.
"Orangutans can have a wide array of medical issues," says Dr. Smith, who works with zoo orangutans Tengku, a 25-year-old male, and Melati, a 27-year-old female. "A gathering like this lets us learn from one another and develop a network of peers for consulting on tough cases."
With experts on hand from European zoos, North American zoos, and an Indonesian veterinarian who works with wild orangutans, a global view of orangutan health emerged from the discussions.
"In zoos, orangutans' No. 1 health concern is respiratory issues, followed by heart disease and obesity," he says. "In the wild, orangutans have tuberculosis, malaria and other conditions that we don't see in zoos."
Melati is a case in point. Since infancy, she has had chronic respiratory disease, a condition that Smith likens to cystic fibrosis.
"We monitor Melati closely and manage her symptoms with medications," says Smith, who serves as the veterinary advisor to the Orangutan Species Survival Plan. Orangutans in zoos typically live to age 50 or older.
"Tengku, on the other hand, is in excellent health," Smith says. Zookeepers recently trained Tengku to remain still while a vet tech draws blood from his forearm. "We are able to easily run routine screening tests on Tengku now that he cooperates on blood draws."
Just as with humans, Smith says there is "no magic bullet" to solve orangutan health issues. But the conference helped him amass new resources to care for Tengku and Melati. Smith plans to share what he learned at upcoming orangutan workshops and at the annual conference of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians this fall.
Learn more about orangutans on the zoo website, http://kidszoo.org/our-animals/indonesian-rain-forest/sumatran-orangutan/.
Early bird hours -- for members only!
Every day in July, zoo members can enter the zoo BEFORE we open! Come out at 8 a.m. and enjoy the cool, quiet morning as we prepare the zoo for another busy day.
Use our Walking Map, http://kidszoo.org/plan-your-visit/directions/, to get your morning exercise! Please note that not all guest amenities are available during Early Bird Hours. Animal exhibits and buildings open at 9 a.m.; rides open at 10 a.m.
Not a member? To discover the benefits of Zoo membership, click on http://kidszoo.org/membership/.
New Zoo website
The zoo's website, www.kidszoo.org, has had a makeover! Check out these new features:
*Upgraded animal info pages, including new animal videos
*News feed RSS
*And much more
Tweet us @fwkidszoo or post on our Facebook wall and let us know the best part of the new website!