This beautiful rehabilitated juvenile bald eagle is currently in quarantine at Elmwood Park Zoo and will go on exhibit after receiving a clean bill of health.
Last month, a young emperor penguin was found stranded on a beach in New Zealand. The penguin, native to Antarctica, had traveled about 2,000 miles from home. At some point he had begun eating sand, apparently mistaking it for snow, which penguins consume for hydration and to keep cool. Unfortunately, the sand caused internal blockages, which required several surgeries to clear. The penguin is now recovering at New Zealand’s Wellington Zoo, but his future is uncertain.
Under ideal conditions, this emperor penguin would eventually be returned to the wild. However, wildlife officials are concerned that reintroducing the penguin to a wild population in the Antarctic could expose the colony to any disease that this animal may have picked up during its journey.
When a new animal is introduced to a an existing population at a zoo that has been accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), it must first be placed in quarantine. Quarantine procedures are used to prevent the introduction of pathogens – disease organisms. The AZA has rigorous standards governing quarantine procedures, as does the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Protocols require that trained personnel separate new arrivals from the resident population for a prescribed period of time. While in quarantine, the new animal receives complete physical and dental examinations, including fecal and blood testing, to assess its overall health; the animal is also tested for the presence of infectious disease and parasites, and receives any required vaccinations.
As an AZA-accredited zoo, Elmwood Park Zoo follows these procedures. All new arrivals go through a minimum 30-day quarantine period, during which they are examined by the zoo’s veterinarian and monitored for their activity level, food intake and behavior. Since primates are more closely related to our own species and susceptible to many human illnesses, they are quarantined for 90 days. Certain illnesses contracted during transportation might not test positive during the shorter 30-day period, so additional time is needed to ensure the animal is disease-free.
In certain situations, new animals can be quarantined on exhibit. This is possible when the newcomer is the only resident in its enclosure.
In addition to the animals on exhibit, Elmwood Park Zoo maintains a collection of animals that are used specifically for education programs throughout the zoo and in surrounding communities. Since these animals have greater exposure to the public and many different environments, they are managed in a permanent state of quarantine.
The quarantine period also provides the animal with time to become acclimated to its new environment. Elmwood Park Zoo maintains two off-exhibit quarantine areas that are used depending on the species, size and time of the year. Large animals, and those that will be housed outdoors, are quarantined in spacious outdoor facilities. The timing of arrivals also is coordinated for animals coming from different climates; sudden changes in temperature can cause stress. We do our very best to coordinate their arrivals to minimize these changes and provide sufficient time for seasonal transitions.
In fact, climate acclimation has become a concern for the stranded emperor penguin, which appears to be suffering from the New Zealand heat. San Diego’s Sea World, which maintains the only emperor penguin colony in North America, has offered a home for the transient bird. He would be joining Sea World’s thirty emperor penguins that inhabit a 25-degree, simulated Antarctic habitat, into which up to 5,000 pounds of snow is blown every day. However, it appears that New Zealand wildlife authorities may soon decide to set the bird free in the Southern Ocean and give it a chance to make its way home. Either way, it will have received a thorough health examination to make certain there aren’t any unwanted pathogens or parasites in tow.