It’s National Vet Tech Week! Vet techs are an integral part of animal care here at the zoo, working to care for species and their diverse array of medical needs.
In the video below, one of our amazing vet techs, Jenny (left), is facilitating a voluntary blood draw behavior with bonobo keeper Victoria (right) for Vergil the bonobo. The end result is the ability to have Vergil actively participate in his own medical care, so that it becomes an enriching experience for him.
While this looks easy enough as a final behavior, the time that went into building a trusting relationship between Jenny and Vergil was extensive. Jenny typically comes by several times throughout her week to ensure she is a familiar face to the bonobo troop. She also applies her expertise in positive reinforcement training to facilitate the process of breaking down a complex behavior into approximations for Vergil to accomplish each session.
This sort of dedication, all for the welfare of each individual animal in their care, is typical of vet techs at the Cincinnati Zoo. We are certainly grateful for their passion for animals and all that they do as part of the animal care team!
There are three Vet Techs at the Cincinnati Zoo: Amy Long, Janell Scott and Jenny Kroll.
A Day in the Life of a Zoo Vet Tech – by Jenny Kroll
We typically have procedures in the morning – assist with immobilizations for routine physical exams, preshipment exams or when an animal is ill or injured. We perform phlebotomy, take radiographs, assist with anesthesia.
We also do routine fecals – all animals have a routine fecal done twice a year.
The Cincinnati Zoo also does laser treatments on some animals. We often have training sessions with animals to work on medical behaviors such as voluntary hand injections, blood collection, laser treatments.
I enjoy working with the keepers and their animals and building a relationship with them.
Favorite Animal to Work With
Every animal at the Cincinnati Zoo is unique in its own way and each has its own interesting qualities, so it’s hard to pick a favorite.
All of us completed an internship at a Zoo while in college or right after college. We are all Registered Veterinary Technicians (RVT). To become an RVT you have to graduate from a Vet Tech Program from an accredited college. You then have to pass a National exam. We have to take continuing education hours to keep our license and we must renew every 2 years.
I knew I always wanted to work in a zoo. I originally wanted to be a keeper and it wasn’t until I was in college and did an internship at a Wildlife Rehab Center that I really enjoyed the medical aspect. So then I wanted to be a Vet Tech in a zoo. I did my internship at the Brookfield Zoo, was then hired on as a seasonal there and then the position opened up here.
Janell worked in a small animal hospital for 11 years before she decided to enroll in the veterinary technology program at UC Blue Ash to obtain her Associate’s in applied science and to become a registered Veterinary Technician. Upon completion of schooling, she had to pass a national boards exam before she could start practicing as a licensed and registered veterinary technician. Her journey into zoo medicine started at a different zoo in which she had completed an internship with in order to obtain my degree. Janell also completed an internship with the veterinary staff at the Cincinnati Zoo last summer and when the position for a new veterinary technician opened up last fall, she knew that’s where she wanted to really dive into her career in zoo medicine, especially with an opportunity to work alongside such a seasoned staff of veterinarians and veterinary technicians.
Do you have a favorite Zoo story that relates to your job:
I really enjoyed working with the Sumatran rhinos. Knowing that there are probably no more than 200 left in this world and I had the privilege to be able to see them and work with them for so many years was amazing. Being a part of the first Sumatran Rhino birth in human care was incredible. When I saw Andalas, it was so amazing to know I was a part of making that possible. I really felt at that moment that my job really made a difference.
More recently I would have to say working with Fiona! I remember holding her, weighing only 29lbs and thinking that she weighs less than my dog at home and someday she will weigh several thousand pounds. It was hard to even fathom that thought. Early on we were collecting blood samples from her numerous times a day to monitor her. There were days that were frustrating and at times feeling like she wasn’t going to make it but then she would have a good day and give us hope again.