Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Chattanooga Zoo chimpanzees advancing understanding of heart issues

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

ChimpanzeeChattanooga Zoo has lost two chimpanzees to heart disease, and veterinarian Tony Ashley is working with Memorial Health System’s Chattanooga Heart Institute to learn more about the issue. The zoo’s chimpanzees undergo an echocardiogram annually as part of their physical exam, and the work is part of the Zoo Atlanta-based Great Ape Heart Project. Cardiologist Bill Warren says he is seeing striking similarities in disease between humans and apes. The Washington Times/The Associated Press

CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) – The camels paid no mind as the bulky white computer cart rumbled past their pen on a recent afternoon.

And the African spur-thighed tortoises barely lifted their wrinkly heads to acknowledge the ultrasound machine as it rolled into a bamboo thicket and entered the Gombe Forest.

But in a cavernlike back room at the Chattanooga Zoo, Goliath knew something was afoot in his domain.

And he didn’t like it one bit.

As a sedative-laced dart hit the 38-year-old chimpanzee’s skin, his powerful shrieks echoed through the building, until his eyes slowly closed and his head slumped to his chest.

Finally, when the anesthetic had lulled Goliath to sleep – his fingers gently curled at his side – four zoo staff members wrapped him in a blanket and hoisted his 154-pound frame over to a folding table covered in a flowered sheet.

There Eric Smith, an echocardiographer with Memorial Health System, leaned over the reluctant patient and rubbed some ultrasound gel on the chimp’s hairy barrel chest, as cardiologist Dr. Bill Warren readied the ultrasound machine.

The slice of screen suddenly lit up with the steady throb of muscle. A gushing sound filled the room – sound waves tracking the velocity of blood flow. And as the ape’s chest rose and fell with his breath, colorful lines spiked and fell across the screen:

Goliath’s heartbeat.

“His heart has the same measurements and valve structures as the human heart,” explained Warren. “If you had shown us pictures without telling us that it was a chimpanzee, we wouldn’t have known the difference.”

That’s why zoo veterinarian Dr. Tony Ashley first reached out to Memorial’s Chattanooga Heart Institute three years ago.

Hank – Chattanooga’s famous chimpanzee and the zoo’s former mascot – had recently died of heart disease, without showing any clear symptoms. Ashley wanted to introduce more preventive measures with the rest of the zoo’s chimps.

Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death among chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans living in captivity. Three months ago another Chattanooga Zoo chimp, Annie, also died of heart complications. She was 28 years old.

Ashley’s skill with the animals doesn’t extend to the specificity of cardiology. But he knew an echocardiogram used on humans would be just as revealing for chimps. Such tests have become more common at zoos.

“I called the hospital and said, ‘I’d like to conduct an echocardiogram on a chimpanzee,’” Ashley remembers. “I got passed around until I was talking to the hospital’s CEO. I don’t think they really knew what to do with that statement.”

Goliath’s echo is now the third test performed by Warren and Smith at the Chattanooga Zoo, as part of a partnership between the two organizations that Warren calls “a public service.”

While the two have performed hundreds of such tests on humans, it hasn’t lessened the strangeness of working on the powerful apes.

“The first time, the chimp actually growled while we were doing the test,” said Warren. “Maybe it was my stomach. Either way, it was a little unnerving.”

The Chattanooga chimps’ initial echocardiograms have been submitted to a database with the Great Ape Heart Project based at Zoo Atlanta. The project is a national effort to investigate cardiovascular disease in great apes in hopes of curbing the number of such deaths.

So far, reports have shown remarkable similarities in how heart disease afflicts both apes and humans, Warren said.

Now the echocardiogram has become part of the chimps’ annual physical exams. As Warren and Smith examined Goliath’s heart Wednesday, Ashley and the other technicians worked quickly to measure Goliath’s height, collect his blood and conduct a TB test. Another worker swiftly clipped his fingernails and toenails.

Goliath’s heart looked good, said Warren, and the group finished up just as Goliath began to stir. Quickly, the zoo workers detached him from the mechanism and gently moved him to a bed of hay.

And before the chimp awoke from his slumber, the ultrasound machine had been whisked out of the ape den, past the turtles and the camels, and back to more hospitable territory.


Veterinarian studies intersection between gorilla and human health

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014
Veterinarian Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka has been studying mountain gorillas in Uganda for two decades, and she founded the nonprofit group Conservation Through Public Health in an effort to educate people about the critically endangered mountain gorilla population. Her work involves monitoring and treating diseases in gorillas and educating the public about the connection between gorillas and human health. Dr. Kalema-Zikusoka works to strike a balance between conservation and economics, noting that while ecotourism helps the local economy, it also exposes the gorillas to human diseases that could have devastating consequences for the species. CNN (4/22)

Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, Uganda (CNN) — They are the world’s largest primates and yet the constant threat of poaching, deforestation and human diseases means that soon the world’s mountain gorillas could be completely wiped out.Living in the dense forests of Central Africa — in the Virunga Mountains spanning Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda — the critically endangered gorillas face an uncertain future — there are only 880 mountain gorillas left in the world, according to recent census data.On a mission to protect the primates from extinction is Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, a leading Ugandan scientist and advocate for species conservation in Bwindi, a World Heritage Site and home to nearly half of the world’s mountain gorilla population.

One of Africa’s premier conservationists, Kalema-Zikusoka has been working tirelessly for some two decades to create an environment where gorillas and people can coexist safely in an area with one of the highest rural human population densities in the continent.

Can gorillas catch a cold?

When Kalema-Zikusoka first started working in Bwindi back in 1994, gorilla tourism was in its infancy and starting to become a strong financial resource for the local economy.With mountain gorillas sharing over 98% of the same genetic material as humans, Kalema-Zikusoka decided to analyze how increased human interaction could affect the primates.”I could see what tourism was doing for the gorillas — both the good and the bad,” she says. “And of course I realized how the communities were benefiting a lot because they are really poor and the gorillas tourism is helping to lift them out of poverty,” adds Kalema-Zikusoka.”My research at the time was looking at the parasites in the gorilla dam and I found that those actually visited by tourists have a higher parasite load than those that were not,” she explains. “We can easily give them diseases and that’s always a bad thing.”Fast forward two decades and the leading veterinarian is now the founder and CEO of non-profit group “Conservation Through Public Health” (CTPH), continuing her goals of protecting gorillas and other wildlife from disease.”Our current research is focused on disease transmission between people and the gorillas,” she says. “We analyze fecal samples from gorillas regularly, like at least once a month from the habituated groups that we can get close enough to, to try and see if they are picking anything from the livestock or from the people who they interact with. “And then if they are, then we advise Uganda Wildlife Authority and we sit down and decide what should we do about it.

Helping gorillas, helping humans

Kalema-Zikusoka says it is essential to educate the local communities surrounding the gorillas.”We also have a parallel program … where we improve the health of the community,” she says. “And so as we’re improving the health of the community, we’re also looking and saying how is the gorilla health improving.”The CTPH community programs aim to prevent infectious diseases like diarrhea, scabies and tuberculosis which could potentially be passed on to the gorilla population.”We had a scabies gorilla [in] 1996 when I was the vet for Uganda Wildlife Authority and that was traced to people living around the park who have very little health care,” explains Kalema-Zikusoka.”That same gorilla group almost all died if we hadn’t treated them. The infant gorilla died and the rest only recovered with treatment.

The power of ecotourism

As part of their efforts, the CTPH is now trying to raise funds to build a larger gorilla clinic, as well as a community education center.”I really feel that everyone should come out and protect the gorillas,” says Kalema-Zikusoka. “Actually the community over here, they love the gorillas — one is because of the economic benefit they get from them, but I think also they’re really gentle giants.”Kalema-Zikusoka admits that gorilla tourism is a financial lifeline for locals — each gorilla group brings a minimum of $1 million annually to the surrounding communities, in addition to providing employment in the tourism industry, says the scientist.”It goes down to a certain balance between conservation and economics,” she says. “And that is why we try to make as far as ecotourism experience where you limit the number of people who visit the gorilla groups.”Through her continued advocacy and the continued endeavors of the international conservation community, recent figures indicate the mountain gorilla population is increasing.A 2012 census conducted by the Uganda Wildlife Authority identified 400 mountain gorillas now living in Bwindi National Park bringing the overall population estimate up to 880, up from 786 estimated in 2010.”There’s so few of them remaining [so] we are pleased that the numbers are beginning to grow,” says Kalema-Zikusoka.”Bwindi is actually a World Heritage Site and we have to do as much as we can to protect them.”

Zoos team up with pediatric hospitals to connect children with animals

Friday, January 31st, 2014

Zoos and aquariums across the U.S. are joining forces with pediatric hospitals to introduce young patients to footage of animals playing, training and being treated by veterinarians and zoo staff. Children watch clips of animals being fed, having their teeth brushed and undergoing treatments such as receiving antibiotics and vitamins. “It is a perfect match, an opportunity for us to bring the zoo to children who can’t come to the zoo because they are in the hospital,” said Rick Schwartz, who hosts the San Diego Zoo Kids show and is also the zoo’s national ambassador. The Miami Herald (tiered subscription model)/The Associated Press (1/29)

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES — The sight of an exotic animal can be a welcome distraction, even a temporary antidote, for a sick child. But you can’t simply slap a leash and surgical mask on a rhino and march it through the front door of a hospital for a visit.

That’s why more than 14 accredited zoos and aquariums across the country have teamed up with local pediatric hospitals to beam in footage of sea otters getting their teeth brushed, baby tiger cubs getting belly rubs and pandas munching on bamboo, said Jennifer Fields of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in Baltimore.

For kids with cancer, kidney problems or just a broken leg, temporarily forgetting why they are stuck in a hospital can be a step toward recovery. Videos show animals like sharks, meerkats and gorillas eating, romping or receiving care while educators provide fun facts for kids and maps show the animal’s natural environment. The footage supplements popular show-and-tell sessions where trainers introduce hospitalized kids to smaller — and less ferocious — animals like snakes, anteaters, jellyfish and crabs. But not all children can attend those visits because of germs, surgery or rehab.

Zoos and aquariums from California to New Jersey have established video projects to give every kid a chance to see out-of-the-ordinary wildlife. One of the largest is the month-old San Diego Zoo Kids, which is beamed to every room, waiting area and clinic at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego.

Tino Pepe, 4, who sat surrounded by stuffed animals on his hospital bed, is a huge fan. He is well-versed in the San Diego Zoo’s exhibits, being a frequent visitor. When Tino and his mom go to the hospital for blood work, they’ll often stop at the zoo afterward as a reward.

Tino was born without kidney function and spent the first half of his life on a dialysis machine. Two years ago, his mom, Yvette, gave him one of her kidneys. This January trip to the hospital was to clear up an infection.

“He will always have stuff to deal with. It’s just part of his life, our lives,” said his dad, John Pepe.

Tino relates to a part of a video featuring a baby orangutan that had open heart surgery. Staffers are following the small ape through its recovery.

Tino, whose favorite animals right now are the rhino and zebra, has learned heaps of facts about animals from his trips to the zoo and bedtime stories with Mom and Dad.

“He’ll remember facts like which continent they live on and what they eat,” John Pepe said. “He knows the difference between an herbivore and a carnivore.”

San Diego Zoo Kids’ four-hour loop running now at Rady Children’s Hospital features footage of the zoo’s panda exhibit and lots of information from Rick Schwartz, the zoo’s national ambassador and show host.

“It is a perfect match, an opportunity for us to bring the zoo to children who can’t come to the zoo because they are in the hospital,” he said.

Schwartz is working on new content, including incorporating archive footage. For years, the zoo has broadcast live Internet streams from cameras trained on the zoo’s panda, elephant, polar bear, ape, condor and koala bear exhibits.

It will take some work to get that footage ready for prime time. “A koala sleeps 20 hours a day,” Schwartz said. “That would be pretty boring to watch.”

The TV network will be offered to every children’s hospital in the country, Dr. Donald B. Kearns, acting president of Rady’s, said during a kickoff news conference in December. The hospital already has two commitments: Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, S.D.

Businessman and philanthropist Denny Sanford donated the money to launch the network.

Another program in California has been underway for a year. The Aquarium of the Pacific and Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach have teamed up, and aquarium education director Dave Bader said there are two big benefits. Distraction, interaction and fun comes in first, but the second is selfish, he said.

“We get to feel good by providing something for the patients,” Bader said. “We benefit from this interaction, too.”

The aquarium show airs in each hospital room every other Tuesday afternoon.

Children can watch as veterinarians at Molina Animal Health Center weigh animals or give them vitamins or antibiotics, Bader said.

He says the questions he gets at show-and-tells prove the animals are helping the kids forget their sicknesses for a bit.

After seeing that sea otters get their teeth brushed at the aquarium, one child asked Bader about the penguins. No teeth, no problem, he said.

Schwartz also sees quizzical kids momentarily engrossed in the animal world. He was showing a boa constrictor to a group of young patients when a little girl asked, “Do snakes yawn?”

“To this day, hands down, no question about it, that was the best question I ever got, and the only time I ever got it,” he said.

And, yes, snakes do yawn.

Read more here:




Snowy owl treated after bus injury in D.C.

Friday, January 31st, 2014

snowy owlA snowy owl that has been spotted lately around Washington, D.C., is recovering after being hit by a bus. National Zoo veterinarians examined the bird, and it is not believed to have head trauma. The owl had a broken toe, and officials have tested whether it was exposed to rat poison. The bird was treated with antibiotics, fluids and pain medication and is recuperating at the City Wildlife and Rehabilitation Center. WRC-TV (Washington, D.C.) (1/30), National Journal (1/30)

A snowy owl that has captivated D.C. this winter was apparently met with an all-too-urban mishap: It is being treated for injuries sustained from being hit by a bus.

The owl was reportedly injured by the bus in the vicinity of 15th and I streets. It was found by Metropolitan police, who reported the owl’s injury to the National Zoological Police.

The owl was taken to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo earlier today for treatment. It’s now in the care of the City Wildlife and Rehabilitation Center, which announced late Thursday night the owl is in stable condition.

A zoo press release described the owl’s initial condition as “responsive but subdued.” Though there were no obvious physical injuries on the bird, a further examination found blood in her mouth, a symptom consistent with head trauma.

Abby Hehmeyer, a city wildlife biologist, said the Zoo will give the owl X-rays in order to check for any missed injuries.

“Our team made sure the bird was comfortable and in a quiet atmosphere while waiting for it to be picked up by City Wildlife for rehabilitation,” zoo officials said in the press release.

City Wildlife plans to release her back into the wild as soon as possible, as per standard protocol.

Zoo veterinarians determined the owl was a female based on its size and color (female snowy owls tend to be a little larger and darker than males).

The owl has become a minor D.C. celebrity, even spawning her own Twitter account, @DCSnowyOwl. She currently has 480 followers and has been tweeting throughout the real owl’s ordeal.

Snowy owls are generally found much farther north than D.C., ranging from the Arctic tundra to parts of Canada, Alaska and Eurasia. But the birds sometimes find their ways as far south as Texas and Georgia.


Fifth Utah eagle dies, another shows signs of mystery malady

Friday, December 20th, 2013
 Twelve eagles have died; one is undergoing treatment.

By brett prettyman – The Salt Lake Tribune

 First Published Dec 19 2013 09:51 am • Updated 8 hours ago

A fifth bald eagle suffering from a mysterious malady has been euthanized, a sixth is receiving treatment — and the outbreak now includes seven more eagles found dead in the wild.

Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) officials confirm that 12 bald eagles have died in northern Utah this month from a still unknown cause.

 Bald Eagle

The fifth bald eagle to receive treatment was delivered to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Northern Utah on Saturday from West Weber. It was euthanized because its health declined “very quickly,” said DaLyn Erickson with the center.

The surviving eagle, an immature female spotted by a hiker near Centerville, arrived at the Ogden center Wednesday. Likely hatched this spring, the juvenile displays the same head tremors and lower extremity paralysis as the previous eagles, Erickson said.

As the mystery persists. Erickson is afraid “what we are seeing is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Six distressed eagles have been reported by members of the public and delivered by Utah Division of Wildlife Resources officials to the Ogden center or the Great Basin Wildlife Rescue in Mapleton.

Two of those eagles came from West Weber. The others have come from Corrine, Grantsville and Lehi. One of the dead birds was found on the Provo River Trail in Utah County.

Preliminary results from the first birds’ tests for illnesses including West Nile virus, lead poisoning and avian cholera are expected to arrive late this week or early next week from the National Wildlife Health Center in Madison, Wis.

Results from more thorough testing to hone in on the exact cause of the deaths will likely not be available until after Christmas.

It is likely that the dying eagles recently migrated to Utah from other states.

Heathrow Animal Reception Centre handles traveling animals great and small

Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

Every year, London’s Heathrow Animal Reception Centre handles 37 million animals traveling to or through the London area, working to ensure the animals are comfortable while traveling, properly vaccinated and microchipped. The center encounters all manner of species from elephants and poisonous snakes to dogs, cats and even four cheetahs in need of a microchip check. The Guardian (London)/Shortcuts Blog

Whether it’s pets, elephants or cheetahs being flown in legally, or dangerous wild animals being smuggled, the animal centre at London’s major airport must deal with them.

A confiscated dwarf crocodile at the Animal Reception Centre, Heathrow.<br />
A confiscated dwarf crocodile at the Animal Reception Centre, Heathrow. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

On an industrial estate less than a mile from Heathrow, an anonymous yellow-walled building echoes with barks, mewls and shrieks. The Heathrow Animal Reception Centre (HARC) is the first stop for every one of the 37 million animals that pass through the airport every year, whether it is an elephant moving between zoos, or an impulsively purchased gift someone has tried to sneak through customs.

“We’ve had a couple of tortoises down a man’s pants,” says the centre’s deputy manager Susie Pritchard, “and some turtles in someone’s bra.”

Turtles, it turns out, are particularly prevalent. Animal welfare officer Chris Sampson explains that snapping turtles, such as the one lurking beneath a log in one of HARC’s rooms, are often abandoned when they become too difficult to look after. Next door is a cayman, seized by police from an owner without a licence to keep dangerous wild animals. Both the cayman and his neighbour are now used as part of the centre’s hazardous animals training programme.

HARC houses around 20 dangerous reptiles. Alongside an innocuous-looking chameleon and a pair of monitor lizards, two huge pythons lie curled in the corners of their tanks. One was discovered roaming around Heathrow’s car park, and the other was given up by an owner who found it too aggressive. Exotic pets are increasingly popular in the UK – the RSPCA dealt with 7,073 calls about 32,426 exotic animals in 2011 – and for the authorities who have to deal with them, HARC is an invaluable training resource: “It’s about explaining to people what you need to do if you go into someone’s house and there’s a room full of rattlesnakes,” says Pritchard.

A confiscated Yemen chameleon. A confiscated Yemen chameleon. Photograph: Graham Turner for the Guardian

Most of HARC’s visitors enter the UK legally, and the centre reunites 17,000 cats and dogs with their anxious owners every year. “It’s like arrivals at terminal four,” says Pritchard. “People react like they’ve not seen their pets in a decade.” In reality, they are normally only in the centre a few hours, long enough for staff to scan the animals’ microchips and confirm rabies vaccinations (both legal requirements for pets entering the UK), and in the case of long-haul flights, let them get some exercise. Regulations governing animal transit are strict – unlike budget-airline passengers, dogs and cats need to be able to sit, stand and turn around – and the City of London, which operates HARC, is responsible for ensuring airlines meet those welfare guidelines.

The glass-walled reception has seen its share of famous faces, and a signed headshot above the door marks out Orlando Bloom’s dog Sidi as a frequent visitor. “That always gets the girls quite excited,” says Pritchard. “You’ll get staff appearing on shift who aren’t on the rota.” But for Pritchard, Hollywood stars are far less interesting than some of HARC’s more highly strung arrivals: “I got a call last Christmas asking if I might chip-read four cheetahs. That was a bit of a handful.”

Orang Utan Republik Foundation

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

OURF LogoThe AHF is a collaborator with the Orang Utan Republik Foundation (OURF) by supporting needy veterinary students in Aceh, Sumatra. The AHF provides scholarships within the OURF’s Orangutan Caring Scholarship program to students who might otherwise be unable to attend veterinary school. The AHF funded four new five-year scholarships in 2011 & 2012 covering the cost of tuition and the internship required to become a practicing veterinarian.

To read OURFs annual report, please CLICK HERE

AHF donates to help malnourished sea lion pups

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

baby sea lionThe AHF received a request from the Marine Mammal Care Center at Fort MacArthur (MMCC) in San Pedro, CA telling us that it has received over 400 malnourished sea lion pups since January and the MMCC  neds to provide the care necessary to rehabilitate and release these animals.

Additionally, every dollar that we or the public donates will be matched by the Waitt Foundation up to $25,000.

In March, NOAA Fisheries declared an Unusual Mortality Event for California sea lions. Los Angeles County is experiencing more strandings than any other county. Even as intake numbers decrease, these animals need up to one to two months of rehabilitation. With MMCC being the lead facility in Los Angeles County rehabilitating these animals.

Researchers speculate that warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures have dispersed prey fish, causing female sea lions to spend more time away from their pups, resulting in malnourished and dehydrated pups. Their immune systems become compromised, their health deteriorates, and they ultimately strand themselves on Southern California beaches.

Once rescued, seals and sea lions are brought to MMCC. Intake and treatment protocols call for initial and follow-up blood work, appropriate medications, and may require radiographs and sometimes surgery. The amount of food required to feed our patients is up about 30% from this time last year. In short, the MMCC is experiencing a significant increase in operating costs.

Domesticated cats may still hear the call of the wild

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

Many behaviors we see in our domesticated felines speak to their wild ancestry, as evidenced by similar behaviors in lions, tigers and other big cats, writes wildlife cameraman Simon King. Cats’ habit of rubbing against their owners at mealtime mirrors lions’ social behavior, and felines sleeping on high perches in the home resemble African leopards, who dine and doze on tree branches high above potential threats on the ground. The Huffington Post/The Blog

Have you ever wondered why your pet cat rubs up against your legs, kneads your thighs with its forepaws or sleeps on top of a wardrobe? These, and many other behaviors, can be attributed to the tiger lurking within your pet tigger.

A recent report conducted by feline experts Whiskas has established close links between domestic cat behavior and behaviors exhibited by their wild big cat cousins.

The report also revealed some startling statistics about the way cat owners relate to their pets.

Over a thousand owners were involved in a survey that investigated regularly observed behaviors around the home and garden and also asked how owners responded to their pets. Some of the results were startling!  Over 95% of cat owners considered their pet as part of the family. And a surprising one in 10 admitted to preferring having a cuddle with their cat than with their partner!

Many cat owners maintain that stroking their pet reduces feelings of stress and this has been born out by empirical study that correlates a reduction in blood pressure among people who regularly look after and show affection to their pets.

One of the most tangible illustrations of owners recognizing the similarities between domestic cats and their wild counterparts is when it comes to naming them, with Tigger and Tiger being among the favorites!

As someone who has spent a great deal of the past 30 years watching and filming the big cats of the world, chiefly in Kenya and India, I was asked to analyze some of the most regularly witnessed domestic cat behavior to see if there were indeed any patterns which echoed that of their big cat cousins.

A common observation was that of cats rubbing against their owners’ legs with their temples, cheeks and flanks, especially as meals were being prepared. The cat is in fact scent marking, using special glands in their face and sides, and in so doing they are reinforcing a ‘family’ scent.  Very similar behavior can be seen in lions, particularly when subordinate females or youngsters greet more dominant animals in the pride. As the subordinate lion approaches it lowers its head slightly, often raises its tail and then pushes its head into and along that of the more dominant colleague. The importance of establishing a clan or family scent for these sociable cats is key to the avoidance and diffusion of aggression. And woe betide any intruder that does not bear the familiar smell! When your domestic cat scent marks you it is showing its confidence and comfort in being close to you and at the same time recognizing your dominance in the relationship. In short, it’s a cat compliment.

Many owners observed their pet cat choosing to rest on a high point like the top of a cupboard, and some said that their cat preferred to eat from a bowl that was raised above ground level. This again is echoed by one of their big cat cousins, the African leopard, which in parts of its range regularly climbs trees to rest and may haul meals up into the branches too. This is a defence strategy, avoiding contact and conflict with other predators, especially hyenas and lions. When your pet cat seeks a high point it is responding to an ancestral urge to get out of the way of trouble that may lurk on the ground.

Padding, or kneading with the forepaws is another behavior often witnessed in pet cats, especially when they are lying comfortably on their owners’ laps. This action stems from infantile behavior, when nursing kittens rhythmically knead their mothers’ mammary glands to stimulate milk flow. Over thousands of years of domestication we have encouraged cats to maintain much of their kitten-like relationship, with ourselves playing the role of surrogate parents, and it is this that leads to the perpetuation of this padding behavior. The same can be said of play behavior, with many pet cats remaining very playful with their owners well into adulthood, a pattern of behavior that generally wanes soon after adolescence in wild cat populations.

So much of the charm of living with a cat can be attributed to the close connection many have with the wild side of their character, whilst continuing to surprise and amuse us with their sense of fun, trust and independent character.

Orangutan recovering after emergency hysterectomy

Monday, January 21st, 2013

The Topeka Zoo’s 30-year-old orangutan named Lena underwent an emergency hysterectomy because her fetus died in utero and veterinarians were concerned about a ruptured uterus. It was the third trimester of her pregnancy. Topeka Zoo veterinarian Shirley Llizo, along with veterinarian Leon Conner and perinatologist John Evans, performed Lena’s surgery. Managing pain and preventing infection are now the primary goals for Lena’s recovery, said Dr. Llizo. The Topeka Capital-Journal (Kan.) (1/16)


By The Capital-Journal

Topeka Zoo’s orangutan recovers from surgery
The Capital-Journal
January 17, 2013 5:19 PM EST

Four days after an emergency hysterectomy, Lena, a 30-year-old orangutan, is recovering nicely from her surgery, Shirley Llizo, staff veterinarian of the Topeka Zoo, said Wednesday.

The hysterectomy was performed after doctors determined the third trimester fetus Lena was carrying no longer had a heartbeat.

“We wanted to avoid surgery,” Llizo said. “Complications with a ruptured uterus left us no option. The first 24 hours were critical. Once we got past that point, the focus shifted to pain management and preventing infection. In a great ape that isn’t feeling well, that presents its own set of challenges.” Staff attached four feet of rubber tubing to a broomstick, creating an extended straw through which Lena could drink Gatorade and medication.

“We want Lena to be as comfortable as possible,” Beckee Niemackl, Lena’s primary zookeeper said. “In years of dealing with things like this, you learn to do whatever it takes. The long straw just made sense.”

One of the things that has impressed zoo staff about Lena through this ordeal is her gentleness towards doctors and zoo staff, Niemackl said.

“The day after she went through a major surgery, Dr. Llizo showed her a syringe,” she said. “Lena saw it, and presented her shoulder to be hand injected with pain relievers. In situations like these, you realize how much the training we have done with these orangutans for years pays off.”

Lena is alert, but taking it easy, according to a news release from the city of Topeka. She is resting on a fluffy bed made of straw.

“Her appetite is slowly coming back,” it said. “Infection is still a concern but lessens a little each day. While she still faces a lengthy recovery time, she has a caring staff and loving community to help her along the way.”

Perinatologist John Evans, of Stormont-Vail HealthCare, and veterinarian Leon Conner, of Highland Park Animal Hospital, teamed with Llizo and zoo staff to complete Lena’s procedure.