“We have an incredible team here”


Zechora is a 7-year-old Hartmann’s mountain zebra who recently visited the Utica Zoo after being transferred from a zoo in Orlando, Florida.

Like most Florida transplants, Zechora acclimates to the cold and snowy conditions of the northeast.

She was kept in a heated barn while quarantined for 30 days – according to procedure – after arriving in Utica in November.

Zechora has ventured into the snow, but prefers to spend her time indoors, where it is hot, veterinary technicians Jackie Gregory and Nicole Blance said.

“She looks up, [going] ” What is that ? Blance said of Zechora’s first interaction with snow a few weeks ago.

The two veterinary technicians recently managed to get Zechora out of her barn by bribing her with snacks, including bamboo and carrots. However, Zechora didn’t stay in the cold for that long, immediately jumping as if she had seen a spider and trotting back inside almost as soon as her hooves touched the snowy areas in front of the barn.

Seven-year-old Zechora, Hartmann’s mountain zebra, eats bamboo leaves outside in the snow. She has just been transferred to the Utica Zoo from Orlando, Florida.

Medical care

Gregory and Blance are the only two veterinary technicians working at the Utica Zoo. They are joined by a veterinarian and guardian staff who all work together to keep the animals happy and healthy.

Utica Zoo’s executive director Andria Heath said the zoo normally has around 13 staff on the animal care team, although there are currently vacancies.

The zoo employs 30 people, making animal care staff about a third of that of the zoo, Heath said.

The animal care staff also includes an assistant director of life services, a more recent position at the zoo, said Heath. The person in that position helps oversee all animal care, Heath said.

“We have an amazing team here,” said Heath.

In total, the animal care team looks after the welfare of 200 animals of very different species.

It all starts with zookeepers, Gregory said.

Guardians spend the most time with animals and know their habits. If there is anything abnormal, zookeepers report it to veterinary technicians, who keep an eye on the animal and can call the vet, if necessary.

“They are the first to know what their normal is,” Gregory said of the keepers and their interactions with the animals at the zoo.

Veterinary technicians keep track of annual exams and vaccinations, assist with preventive health care, and provide all possible care.

Gregory and Blance are also doing exams on some of the zoo’s smallest and least dangerous animals.

Recently one of their patients was Winston, a blue-tongued skink who sat peacefully in their arms as he had his nails, eyes and nostrils checked.

The exams also help to make sure that there are no parasites or other possible health problems.

Veterinary visits

Dr Ellen Hilton is the Utica Zoo veterinarian. She usually visits the zoo at least once a week and is on call in an emergency.

Utica Zoo vet Dr. Ellen Hilton prepares to watch a ferret in the treatment room.  Hilton typically visits the zoo at least once a week and is on call for emergencies.

Utica Zoo vet Dr. Ellen Hilton prepares to watch a ferret in the treatment room. Hilton typically visits the zoo at least once a week and is on call for emergencies.

Hilton, who practices at the Beaver Meadow Vet Clinic in Barneveld, specializes in small and exotic animals.

While there are similarities between caring for a pet and a zoo animal – same type of feline medicine for a cat and a lion, although the amount changes, for example – there are some major differences. .

“It’s a different decision-making,” said Hilton.

For example, Hilton said she can be more active with cats and dogs, which she can’t do with some of the animals in the zoo.

Hilton was in contact with some of the animals at the zoo on a recent visit. She was caring for two older ferrets who needed a physical exam.

Masks and gloves were needed for the exam because ferrets are susceptible to COVID-19, Hilton said. The Utica Zoo is on a list to get the COVID-19 vaccine for zoo animals, Hilton said.

Part of Hilton’s job is to ensure the quality of life for animals.

Hilton, along with other zoo officials, recently had to make the heartbreaking decision to euthanize Sherlock, a 14-year-old red fox who was a favorite among staff and visitors.

Sherlock suffered from advanced kidney disease and there was nothing else they could do, Hilton said, noting that red foxes typically survive three to four years in the wild.

“He lived a long life,” said Hilton.

Ed Harris is the Oneida County reporter for the Observer-Dispatch. Email Ed Harris at [email protected]

This article originally appeared on Observer-Dispatch: Utica Zoo Uses Team Effort To Care For Animals


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