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in Nuremburg

300 species of patients

Veterinary diversity at the Tiergarten

A vet working at the Tiergarten has to "fight" in all weight categories. No other vet anywhere else seems to face such a weight range with his charges. From the ultra-light common pipistrelle - those nocturnal predators at least weigh a few grams - to the Indian rhinoceros with several tons all weight categories are present.

Diversity of species = diversity of treatments

But not only do the animals' weights make a difference. Just imagine the different ways of living, behaving and eating of all those species, which has certainly already attracted your attention during former visits to the zoo - no matter whether birds, reptiles or mammals. This means that the vet also has to know his patients in their "normal condition" - and not only from books. Experience is important and that means watching, watching and more watching.


So: "Does the rhino still eat? How is its defecation" Are outer changes or even injuries visible? How about its social behaviour??
You can only recognize what's wrong, if you know how it has to be.

Ranging from 3 grams to 3 tons

It's never easy here for vets

"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" - this motto is, of course, also valid at the Tiergarten. Preventing measures are an important part of the vet's work: regular faecal samples provide information about possibly existing parasites, annual vaccinations prevent infectious diseases and blood tests give information about possible diseases.
Persistence and skill are often demanded by a vet. It may be quite easy to take blood from a - numbed - zebra, but the same may be much more difficult with, say, a beaver. It is hard to find blood vessels on his throat or extremities. The lower side of his tail offers the only possibility to take his blood. With the right know-how, the vet will reach his aim with lots of skill.
But one thing is sure: We are not talking about domestic cats or dogs, which you can lift onto table for an examination "just like that" and hold down in order to "simply" take samples. All results are entered into the vet’s veterinary file. He just has to push one button in order to receive/retrieve  all information about the condition of his patient later.

Patient recognition

But how does the vet recognize his patient, especially in larger groups? Is not one wisent similar to the others and does not one flamingo look like any other? It's as simple as that: All animals are marked differently. Most birds are given chiprings (small rings made of aluminium) around one of their legs, penguins are given wing marks, wapitis are marked with dents in their ears and wolves and cats of prey carry implanted microchips. The marks are supplied with number or letter combinations which enable<s>s</s> zoo employees to clearly identify the individual animals. Therefore, the vet's daily report will not mention that Pére-David's deer "Mausi" founders, but that it is animal K14.


Veritable remote diagnostics

Examining wild animals at the zoo is difficult and often combined with catching the animal or nowadays with stressless immobilization, since a remote diagnosis is in most cases not possible.

Body temperature displayed

Sometimes the solution to the problem is to take a photograph of the animal that is to be examined and to thus evaluate their body temperature. With this method, pictures can be taken from a few meter's distance. They show, as the word induces, the temperature of the relevant part of the body. Thus, inflamed joints, parts of the body poorly supplied with blood or a pregnancy can be detected.
Sea lion Ella was thermographically examined in order to check her lower jaw. We could thus see that the former abscess had completely healed off.

Pictures of the Malayan tapir

Our female Malayan tapir Indah repeatedly showed signs of lameness on her hind legs.
By means of  
thermography, we detected an inflamed toe as well as an early pregnancy.
After several weeks of treatment it obviously became better and we took a second picture. As can be seen on this picture, the inflammation had healed off completely. These pictures were taken together with Frankfurt zoo by postgraduates Jan Schmidt-Burbach and Ingrid van Bömmell.