Advance Animal Health and Well Being

Our veterinary and Animal Care teams have pioneered species-specific programs to help each and every Zoo resident—from elephants to ants—thrive. Recognized worldwide for excellence in training and enrichment, Oakland Zoo bases its approach on affective experience.

Medical Care
Well Being

Advance standards of medical care.

“We take great joy in providing high quality and compassionate care for all the animals at Oakland Zoo, and those that come to our veterinary hospital through our conservation programs. It’s hard work, but we love what we do and give every animal the best quality care—whether a rescued mountain lion, tiny poison dart frog, California condor, or giraffe.”

Dr. Alex Herman, VP, Veterinary Services

Advance zoological medicine.

  • In 2013, we opened our 17,000 square-foot Veterinary Hospital. This advanced facility not only serves animals at Oakland Zoo—small and large—but also provides care for rescue and rehabilitation animals.

  • The LEED-certified hospital features radiology and surgical suites, a laboratory, a pharmacy, and wide transportation docks.

Provide cutting-edge health care.

  • The animals we treat receive cutting-edge care, from traditional to alternative medicine. Specialized therapies such as voluntary hoof care, calisthenics, acupuncture, acupressure, laser therapy, and geriatric care are practiced.

Collaborate with colleagues.

  • Our medical team collaborates with UC Davis, UCSF, the Wildlife Disaster Network, and other outside specialists.

Advance animal well being.

A leader in animal well-being worldwide, Oakland Zoo works tirelessly to improve all aspects of animal health, physically and psychologically. Knowledge gleaned is shared with colleagues, partners, and the public—all to improve the well-being of animals in zoos, sanctuaries, and the wild.

Pioneer standards of care.

  • Our team pioneered the Protected Contact program for elephants, which makes it possible to administer daily and medical care without stress.

  • Oakland Zoo has changed the way giraffe and zebra are managed in zoos, by developing an innovative approach to training.

  • With the Five Domains model for animal welfare (nutrition, environment, health, behavior, and mental state) as a basis, our staff developed a range of animal care tools to maximize well being. Based on each animal's species and individual needs, the tools ensure welfare is constantly evaluated and goals are modified to help animals live normal, comfortable lives. Tools include:

  • Psychological Well-Being Matrix for Animal Care

  • Animal Training Tiers

  • Animal Enrichment Tiers

  • Holistic Animal Welfare Assessments

  • Geriatric Animal and Physical Rehabilitation Program

  • California Trail zookeepers—Leslie Storer, Erin Melroy, Brittany Combs, Myra Daly, and Alicia Powers—designed enrichment programs for the bears, bison, wolves, and other animals they care for. Aspects of the program can be customized to achieve specific behavioral goals that improve each animal's welfare.

  • Oakland Zoo leverages ZooMonitor to optimize the time that research interns and research students provide.

Focus on animal enrichment.

  • Oakland Zoo is the only zoo to receive two letters of support from PETA regarding animal welfare.

  • In 2021, the American Association of Zoo Keepers awarded Oakland Zoo for developing novel approaches to managing North American black and brown bears, based on seasonal behavior and diet.

  • The Oakland Zoo California Trail zookeeper team was selected as runner-up for the 2021 AAZK Lee Houts Advancement in Enrichment (LHAE) Award.

Share knowledge.

  • Oakland Zoo has advised almost a dozen graduate students—earning Masters degrees in Animal Behavior and Welfare—whose efforts have had an immediate impact on animals' lives.

Share and collaborate with peers.

  • Oakland Zoo has promoted Protected Contact for elephant management to audiences of professionals.

  • To advance skill and knowledge within the zoological community, Oakland Zoo is working with the AZA* Behavioral Scientific Advisory Group to create an Animal Training Mentorship program.

  • Oakland Zoo is a monthly contributor to Professional Animal Welfare Science, by AnimalConcepts.

  • Oakland Zoo conducted a pilot program with Brookfield Zoo using ZooMonitor to assess the stability of large social groups including primates, flamingos, and more.

  • We worked with University of Edinburgh and the BearCare Group to develop and assess a new welfare assessment tool for bears that allows for the species-specific seasonal differences in behavior.

    *Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.

Raise awareness and educate.

  • To help Oakland Zoo guests learn how to behave appropriately around wildlife, we developed the Quiet Coyote messaging campaign.

  • We conduct monthly readings and workshops on Professional Animal Welfare Science.

  • Oakland Zoo has given workshops, invited talks, and presentations to zoos in the US, UK, Europe, and Australia, on our methods and philosophies of management. Audiences include Association of Zoos and Aquariums, American Association of Zoo Keepers, International Primatological Society, and the Animal Behavior Management Alliance.

  • With our animal behavior and welfare philosophies as the cornerstone, we produce PSAs and develop professional presentations and papers with welfare and research partners.

Provide assistance at home and abroad.

  • We conduct service trips in support of ARCAS Guatemala, one of the largest and most complex wildlife rehabilitation centers in the world. Participants care for animals in ARCAS's sanctuary and rehabilitation facility.

  • Oakland Zoo assisted the Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre (BSBCC) with behavioral observation techniques and animal assessments.

  • Oakland Zoo staff members volunteer at Marine Mammal Center once a week to provide specialized care for seals and sea lions.

Partnership and progress go hand in hand.

ARCAS Guatemala Logo on white background

ARCAS Guatemala

AZA Logo on white background

Association of Zoos and Aquariums

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Badge over white background

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

ChimpHaven Logo over white background


East Bay SPCA logo over white background

East Bay SPCA

Jane Goodall Institute logo over white background

Jane Goodall Institute

Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue Logo over white background

Mickaboo Companion Bird Rescue

PASA logo over white background

Pan African Sanctuary Alliance

The PAWS logo features an illustration of an elephant with a paw print behind it.

Performing Animal Wildlife Sanctuary

The Marine Mammal Center

USFWS badge over white background

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service