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.”