A Grand Opening—and a Proud Moment for the Park

Celebration of the new millennium was especially sweet for the Wild Animal Park veterinary team with the opening of the state-of-the-art Paul Harter Veterinary Medical Center in 2001. It was the culmination of more than 8 years of planning, in which the team visited 15 recently built zoo and university veterinary facilities to see what worked and what didn’t, and to formulate plans that would best meet the unique needs of the Wild Animal Park. It took two years to build, and the result was a hospital that took into consideration the well-being of the animal patients from the time they first arrived until they were ready to go back to the Park, with extensive and innovative facilities, equipment, and technological advances to provide the best possible care for animals.

As Dr. Jim Oosterhuis, then principal veterinarian at the Park, said in a ZOONOOZ article, “For more than 25 years, we have done a lot of improvising and creative thinking in our efforts to best care for our Wild Animal Park animals….No longer will Winston, our silver-backed male gorilla, have to have his medical and dental exams done outside. And when Blanca the female white tiger is not feeling well, she now has a temperature-controlled hospital room to recover in after her ultrasound exam. Likewise, when the white-faced whistling duck is recuperating from a broken leg, there will be a physical therapy pool to exercise in, which will allow her to regain full strength before returning to the Heart of Africa exhibit.”

The Harter Veterinary Center was set up with innovations like the newest and most powerful radiology equipment and a radiology table big enough for a gorilla; stall doors with self-contained units for IV pumps and special swivels in the ceiling so animals can move around without kinking their IV lines; an overhead hoist on a track that allows lifting and moving large animals up to 2,000 pounds to surgery and recovery; and closed-circuit monitoring of all animal areas, to check on patients without disturbing them.

Everyone involved took great pride in this remarkable veterinary center and all that it could accomplish on behalf of the animals. And those interested can see these marvels of animal medicine themselves—the Harter Veterinary Center is one of the tour options available to Park visitors.


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