International Programs

Maribel Munoz

TITLE: Costa Rica 

Photo: Munoz ImagesAs an aspiring wildlife and zoo veterinarian, I wanted to travel internationally to get a hands-on veterinary experience working with wild animals. I travelled to Ciudad Quesada, Costa Rica to work with a zoo veterinarian at La Marina Rescue Center. This private rescue center sees a large influx of injured and abandoned wildlife, and it houses over 80 species and more than 200 animals.

I worked at the center every morning, Monday through Friday from 8am until 3pm. The veterinarian came in about three to four times per week, during which I worked with him. When he was not working at the center, I worked with the zookeepers. Every morning that I came in, I was responsible for making my daily round of the zoo, counting the animals in each enclosure, and ensuring that they appeared healthy. I would report any abnormal findings to the vet. I was also in charge of administering any medications and taking care of any injured animals in quarantine.

While the veterinarian was not working, I would work with the keepers, preparing the diets of the animals and cleaning enclosures. I helped the zookeepers with any captures and relocations throughout the zoo and in preparing or building any enclosures. I also helped in the slaughter of dairy cows a couple of times during the week, which provided food for the carnivorous animals at the center. If there were any injured or abandoned animals brought to the zoo while the veterinarian was not there, I would help to check it in until the veterinarian was able to stop by.

Some highlights of my internship:

The first week at the zoo was an introduction for me. I went on daily rounds with the veterinarian, learned about preventative medicine protocols, familiarized myself with the natural history of the species there, and worked with the zookeepers preparing diets and cleaning enclosures. Basically, the first week I spent getting familiar with the staff at the zoo, how it functioned, and the animals that were housed there.  I also assisted in capturing and examining an ostrich with a broken wing.

I spent my second and third week focused on a project working with the spider monkeys that I had set up with the veterinarian prior to my internship. This involved anesthetizing all of them at the zoo using blow darts, performing complete physical exams, urinalysis, blood work, taking body measurements, x-rays, administering dewormers, and anything else that was necessary for each individual. I got to perform my own physical exams, draw blood, give injections, interpret blood work and urinalysis, analyze fecal samples, and make medical recommendations.

I assisted in taking x-rays of a spider monkey with a previous limb fracture, a kinkajou with a front limb disability, and the exciting capture of a 3.5 meter crocodile with a deformed mandible. While the veterinarian was not working at the zoo, I also worked in behavioral enrichment with all of the primates and other species at the center using diet and various toys.

During my last week, I assisted the veterinarian anesthetize a female African Lion to trim a dewclaw that had grown into her paw. This last week, we also worked with snakes, learning their husbandry and natural history, as well as how to capture them safely.  We also worked with many parrots, performed physical exams, microchipped and dewormed them, as well as learned safe handling techniques. Throughout my time there we worked with many of the tapirs and a tapir baby (super cute!) treating them for dermatologic issues. 

Photo: Munoz Images Photo: Munoz Images