Behind the Scenes – Hospital /Quarantine Section
By Dr. Elizabeth Kaufman
Well isn’t this fun for me – my own section – now I get to share all the gossip! Actually, I have to say I am lucky to work in what I think is the hidden jewel of the Zoo. No one really sees us and yet some of the most critical work of any zoo takes place here. No two days are the same and yet we have maddening similarities that run through every day. It is both the smallest section in the Zoo (two full time people) and the biggest because without our large staff of dedicated volunteers nothing would get done. I can’t say there is a typical day because the word typical just doesn’t apply – so what does an “average” day look like?
Let’s pick a Thursday because that is the one day we are all sure to be there. Chaim Cohen-Gadol, who is the section head and a trained veterinary technician, is the first one in. His day begins with caring for the animals that have spent the night in the hospital because they are ill, or in quarantine waiting to leave for another home or to be released into an exhibit in our Zoo. Dr. Nili Avni-Magen, our esteemed Head Vet is the next to show and I follow shortly thereafter (my name is at the top of the page – I’m the part-timer). Dr. Arieh Litvak is our third vet who stands in for Nili when she is away, comes in every Thursday, and frankly, any other time we feel we could use his expertise and help.
By 9AM we are all assembled and Nili has spoken to the head of each section. She has heard about animals that have been sick or are looking a little sick or have a new wound or any other concerns the keepers might have. Then the days schedule will be set and jobs divided up. Regularly scheduled treatments which are part of the preventative programming are there to help insure good health. Probably 80% of what we do is designed to reduce or hopefully, eliminate medical problems down the line. Any surgeries or diagnostic procedures like x-rays, ultrasounds, physical examinations that require anesthesia and are not an emergency will be scheduled for Thursday and Nili will need to fit that into the days' lineup.
And so - after all is perfectly organized and we are ready to set off on rounds to see the animals something inevitably comes up to throw the whole thing off track. Shmulik Yedvab, our hands on curator, might show up with a bleeding bird under him arm or bringing in a ranger from the Nature Parks Authority with a wounded Gazelle or some animal decides on that now is the time for a difficult birth... Most days are spent running from one thing to another trying to get through our list, and before any of us has time to take a breath the day is over. Never boring. Honestly though, not every day is so hectic and in fact if we do the prevention properly we – theoretically – should have days when there are few treatments to do and that's when we get to catch up on our ongoing research projects and paper work. Remember when I mentioned "maddening similarities"? That's the paper and computer work that nails you to a desk for hours on end and not one of us likes but it must be done so anytime there is a free minute we do it.
For myself I also use the time to work on the diets of all the animals in the zoo since technically I am the Zoo dietitian, and in charge of setting the specific diets for all the animals at the Zoo. This includes vitamins and other supplements as well as a research project to find balance of nutrition in endangered Desert Tortoises. At the end of the day all the animals are settled for the night and the Hospital staff is exhausted and home to dream about what might happen tomorrow.
As we welcome in the New Year I take this opportunity to wish you and all our animals, good health and happiness. Shana Tova.