MEMPHIS, TENN - Very few people get the chance to go behind the scenes at Memphis Zoo and see the thousands of gears that keep it ticking year-round. Fewer people ever step inside one of the Zoo’s most essential components: Its own onsite veterinary hospital.
Staffed with senior veterinarian, Dr. Felicia Knightly and three technicians, the hospital is responsible for keeping the Zoo’s most precious assets—our animals—healthy and strong. Inside the hospital there is an X-Ray room, surgery room, laboratory, a quarantine wing, a pool for aquatic animals and an intensive care unit.
Not only do the veterinarians treat a range of animal illness and injury in more than 500 different species of our 4,500 animals, hospital staff must also verify each animal is healthy by doing checkups. Twice a year, blood and stool samples are retrieved from each animal and examined in the hospital’s laboratory.
“I think we provide an amazing preventative medicine program for our animals—in concert with all of our departments,” said Dr. Knightly.
The hospital also treats certain protected animals brought to the Zoo from various sources.
“Right now we are rehabilitating a bald eagle that came to us and was hit by a truck and sustained pretty significant damage to her wing,” said Dr. Knightly.
When the Zoo receives a new animal, it goes through a process called quarantine. This means the animal is kept behind the scenes for at least 30 days to ensure it is not bringing any germs or parasites unsafe for Zoo animals.
One of the most challenging tasks for Memphis Zoo veterinarians is sedating the variety of animals for treatment—each one varying greatly in size, behavior and temperament. Anesthetizing a venomous snake is vastly different than sedating a polar bear.
Memphis Zoo’s talented veterinarians do an impressive job at caring for the thousands of animals that call the Zoo home. You could say the hospital is the heartbeat of Memphis Zoo.