New tour of animal hospital shows Utah zoo behind the scenes

Angelina Kirkessner gives a tour of the Hogle Zoo's Animal Health Center on Saturday, March 16, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The zoo is offering visitors a new behind-the-scenes tour of an area outsiders rarely experience. (Rick Egan/The Salt Lake Tribune via AP)
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The zoo in Salt Lake City has begun offering visitors a new behind-the-scenes tour of an area rarely seen by outsiders.The walk through Hogle Zoo’s animal hospital reveals what veterinarians see and what they do in real-life scenarios, like when a polar bear swallows a glove or a sea lion eats a sock, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.”We’ll be going where visitors don’t usually go,” said Angelina Kirkessner, the zoo’s lead education instructor. The tours can have up to eight people and cost $40 a person.

The program launched this month shows people different operating rooms, including one with a table that can hold an animal up to 2,000 pounds (907 kilograms). While the syringes, gauze, and tongue suppressors make the room look like a typical doctor’s office, they are much larger and made for animals the size of a horse.

The work typically done there is preventive care, like annual checkups. Veterinarians also take samples of blood, urine, skin and whatever comes down the spot labeled “poop shoot.”

The tour also includes a peek into the quarantine area where new animals stay for a month before being introduced into exhibits.

In there now are four red foxes, who are set to debut in the coming weeks after the zoo’s lone wolf was sent out.

There’s also the necropsy room, which holds reptile and mammal preserves used for studies. On a recent visit, they included a golden frog suspended in yellow gel, a bottle full of zebra eyes, a jar holding an orangutan heart and the bones of two elephant feet on display. The feet belonged to Dari, who was the oldest African elephant in North America when she died of natural causes at 53 years old.

The lab can also produce work that helps humans, like a study completed at the zoo in 2015 on how elephants rarely develop cancer.

“They can help us learn even after they pass away,” Kirkessner said. “We’re still learning.”

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