I went with a group of local veterinarians to the Los Angeles Zoo last Sunday. We got treated to an insider's tour of the medical facility there followed by a lecture on a couple of interesting cases: an orangutan with chronic air sacculitis and pneumonia, and an Indian rhinocerus with squamous cell carcinoma of the horn.
The hospital was gorgeous, but I was sad to hear that budget cuts have been so severe at LA Zoo that most the veterinary and nursing staff has been laid off and instead of giving each and every one of the 1100+ animals there a thorough physical every two years as they had been doing, they are reduced to practicing what we call "fire engine medicine" - in other words, when an animal becomes ill, then and only then is there any medical care. But heaven forbid the taxpayers agree to cough up a few pennies apiece to improve this cruel and deplorable situation......
On the brighter side, there are a lot of capital facilities improvements going on, lots of new construction. If I'm not mistaken, some of these were funded by a Proposition "O" and/or some of the economic stimulus funds for shovel-ready projects that benefit the environment/conservation efforts. Many exhibits are empty, however, and one can only hope that the budget allows for putting animals into the facilities that are being built/refurbished, and the staff to care for them.
The lecture was fascinating. Both cases were quite challenging but ended well. The rhino was on exhibit today and she looks great, but of course she doesn't have much of a horn anymore. She's 40 years old. The orangutan is now over 30, and he fathered a baby in about 2005 as a result of his improved health.
Of course my favorite part of any zoo experience is the cats, and I got to see one of the snow leopards up very close and actively moving about. He came right down to drink from his pond at the front of the enclosure not 5 feet from me, and then sniffed at a rock, rubbed his face on it, then turned and sprayed it with urine to make sure everyone knew it was his own personal rock! What a gorgeous animal!
The tiger and lions and serval were all snoozing and so I saw them from a distance and not doing anything. I wish they had some mountain lions and bobcats on exhibit - even though they are not exotic imports, they are fascinating and beautiful animals and people would be thrilled to see some local wildlife. One of the best zoos I've ever seen was the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, AZ, which is a zoo full of wildlife native to the region instead of the usual big game from far away.
Go visit the LA Zoo before the weather gets too hot this summer - none of the animals are visible when it gets nasty hot. And please DO consider becoming a member to help them out financially, or even making an additional donation.