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Vets Take a Zoo Call for Aging Chimpanzee 

March 6, 2006

ChimpanzeeSchool of Veterinary Medicine veterinarians went the distance February 22 —about 300 miles—when they traveled north through the redwoods and performed a detailed physical examination on Bill, a 59-year-old chimpanzee at the Sequoia Park Zoo in Eureka, California.

Drs. Scott Larsen, William Thomas and Deena Brenner were part of a 10-member team of veterinarians, technicians, and animal care staff on hand for the exam; the team included zoo personnel and local practitioners associated with the zoo.
The assessment included radiographs, blood tests, tissue cultures, a tracheoscopy, ultrasound imaging, and a cardiac evaluation. Dr. Thomas brought equipment to the site from the Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (VMTH) and performed echocardiography and an EKG.

Bill's age, 59, lent some measure of risk to the proceedings, says Dr. Larsen, but Bill recovered well from anesthesia. The veterinarians and zoo officials are awaiting results of several diagnostic tests in upcoming weeks.

Bill's last physical examination took place in 1997.

Dr. Larsen, who led the veterinary team, said, "Dr. Thomas provided invaluable support by performing the cardiac evaluation." Dr. Larsen also noted that faculty member Dr. Ray Wack provided logistical support from the Sacramento Zoo.

The Zoological Medicine Service focuses on serving the medical needs of captive and free-ranging wildlife. Referrals are accepted from all zoological institutions and consultations are available to private practitioners.

The Zoological Medicine residency is a 3-year program that trains competent zoo/wild animal park veterinarians and provides necessary requirements for certification in the American College of Zoological Medicine. Residents also gain experience teaching clinical skills to veterinary students. The first year of the program is based at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine and the Sacramento Zoo. The second year the resident practices at the San Diego Zoo and SeaWorld, and the third year is spent gaining further experience at the San Diego Wild Animal Park. 

Thanks to Jan Roletto, Sequoia Park Zoo, for photo images appearing in this article.