Wouldn’t it be nice if all the animals at Oakland Zoo could take care of themselves, leading perfectly healthy lives on their own? Of course it would. But the reality is that zoo animals, just like us humans, need occasional help to stay healthy. That’s where the OZVH comes in. The newly built $10 million Oakland Zoo Veterinary Hospital provides comprehensive diagnostic care and treatment for creatures both great and small. Radiology, lab work, surgery, treatment, and recovery—all phases of veterinary care can be handled within this 17,000 square foot Gold LEED certified facility. This hospital has been a dream for Zoo President, Dr. Joel Parrott, who has been working hard to make it a reality ever since he began working at Oakland Zoo. Visiting veterinarians at other AZA institutions to learn what works and what doesn’t, he and the architectural team were able to come up with a design that incorporated the latest technologies and procedures in the most efficient manner.
Generally, our hospital is not open to the public, so the majority of zoo visitors probably don’t even know of its existence. But thanks to the Zoo’s Education Department, it’s now possible for a limited number of guests
to visit this wonderful new facility. For the past two years Chantal Burnett, our Assistant Program Director of Volunteer Services, has been leading walking tours of the hospital. In that time, these hour-long tours have become so popular that she’s had to train a team of six docents to handle the demand. I recently had the opportunity to tag along on one of these tours. Although I’ve worked at the Zoo for many years and have been there many times, I was able to learn some new things about the facility that’s been touted as one of the finest veterinary hospitals in Northern California.
On this particular tour I was in the company of some women from the Taiwan tourist industry as well as some members of the Zoo’s Marketing department. Predictably, we began our tour at the
front door. But then Chantal led us through the facility via the same route that an ailing zoo animal would follow, providing us with a unique perspective.
Our first stop was Radiology, where animals are bought in for x-rays. Housed within lead-shielded walls, separate equipment for taking vertical as well as horizontal x-rays accommodate a variety of diagnostic situations. Of all our animal residents, only elephants and giraffes are too large to be treated here at the hospital. In those cases, the vet staff has the ability to bring whatever equipment they need to the animals’ exhibits, for a “house call.”
Then it was on to Treatment, where multiple procedures can take place simultaneously, in the two adjacent rooms. Included in this area is equipment for anesthesia, oxygen, ultrasound and animal dentistry. Skylights augment the electrical lighting; stainless steel surfaces are easily cleaned. The large folding padded equine table can safely accommodate hoofstock of any size. Nearby is the scrub area, where the vet staff cleans up in preparation for their work. Also located nearby are the exam kits—plastic tote boxes containing the equipment needed for work in the field.
The Hoofstock Recovery Area provides a quiet environment (straw-covered floor, subdued lighting) for recently treated
animals to recuperate until they’re ready to return to their exhibits. Down the hall, the Quarantine area allows for the isolation of animals to prevent disease transmission. As a matter of protocol, all animals coming to the Zoo from other institutions are required to be quarantined for thirty days, so this facility is often used for this precautionary purpose as well. The heated floor and hydraulic doors make this area safe and comfortable for these animals whose stay is generally longer than those being treated for specific health issues.
Various other dedicated areas are conveniently located nearby: a diet prep kitchen to prepare all the meals for the animal guests, a pharmacy, two separate laboratories for testing and research, as well as several rooms to meet the needs of the staff: laundry room, conference room, a kitchen
and several private and group offices. There’s even a cozy studio apartment that allows a staff member to stay overnight to keep an eye on animals that need frequent observation or care. Everything from the solar paneled roof to the heated floors of this facility helps provide for the needs of our more than 650 animal residents.
If you’re interested in booking a tour to see this wonderful new hospital for yourself, please contact Chantal Burnett at 510-632-9525 ext 209 (Tues- Sat) or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reservations are required. The hour-long tours are available on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 10 am and 12 noon. Tour fees are $20 for members /$25 for non-members. Pre-vet student groups and high school student groups are $200 per 20 students. Maximum number of guests per tour is 20. Hope to see you there!