Reflecting on my Externship on the Abilene Zoo – WildLIFE



 Macho the black rhino greets his adoring followers earlier than present process routine venipuncture.

My expertise as a first-year vet pupil in 2020 was largely formed by the pandemic and the numerous limitations it imposed. After I first discovered in regards to the Abilene Zoo in April 2021, it was by way of a Cornell Zoo and Wildlife Society (ZAWS) lecture given by Dr. Stephanie Carle, the Abilene Zoo’s senior veterinarian, over Zoom. Spending my lunch hour puzzling by way of case-based questions with my classmates (albeit just about) provided a glimpse into the numerous alternatives accessible to us as veterinary college students—one thing I had overpassed considerably amid the organized chaos of first yr. Dr. Carle concluded her discuss by discussing the Abilene Zoo’s veterinary externship program. Instantly, I had my sights set on taking part in this system.


I had my probability in June 2022 when, funded by a Pupil American Veterinary Medical Affiliation (SAVMA) Veterinary Expertise Grant, I traveled to Abilene, Texas for a three-week externship. It was an journey over a yr within the making, and regardless of how excessive I had allowed my expectations to climb in that point, the expertise managed to exceed them.

 Daphne enjoys her morning feeding!

The Abilene Zoo is residence to over 280 species. The primary resident I met upon my arrival was additionally one of many zoo’s newer residents. Daphne is a big anteater who was born on the zoo in March of 2022 and, upon my arrival, was dwelling within the clinic to obtain around the clock care from the zoo’s veterinary and animal care workers. Daphne is a twin, and her mom was unable to look after each Daphne and her twin brother Arnaud. With enter from zoos throughout the nation, the Abilene Zoo was in a position to craft a custom-made care plan for Daphne that allowed her to realize weight and overcome a myriad of issues in order that by the point I met her, she was thriving.

Throughout my time on the zoo, I had the chance to bottle feed Daphne and to accompany her on her excursions to see the zoo and work together together with her anteater members of the family. As I instructed Daphne throughout one in every of her late-night bottle feedings, I’m additionally a twin and, in contrast to my sister, I spent an prolonged interval within the hospital as a child. I assumed Daphne would possibly admire that we had been kindred spirits. (Her expression remained fairly impartial, so it’s laborious to say if the purpose hit residence. Maybe I noticed the nook of her lengthy snout pull up in a smile.)

 One of many zoo’s resident roadrunners undergoes a pre-shipment examination.

Whereas I spent a number of time with Daphne, I additionally had alternatives to work together with most of the zoo’s species. Highlights of my expertise included aiding with a pre-shipment examination for a roadrunner, serving to to deal with pododermatitis in one of many zoo’s resident flamingoes, taking part in a neonatal examination of a steenbok, and medicating a capybara with conjunctivitis.

Different favourite alternatives included monitoring Jamie, a closely pregnant giraffe within the zoo’s herd, and inspecting Rico, a fossa hospitalized after fracturing his humeral condyle. I used to be in the end in a position to journey with a group from the zoo to Dallas Veterinary Surgical Heart to watch Rico’s orthopedic surgical procedure.

After I wasn’t seeing instances within the hospital with Dr. Carle and Dr. Mike Nance, the zoo’s second veterinarian, I used to be in a position to discover the zoo and gained a greater understanding of the husbandry practices utilized by zoo workers to maintain the gathering animals wholesome and pleased. I used to be additionally in a position to take part in occasions hosted by the zoo, together with Dreamnight, a cost-free occasion permitting youngsters with particular medical must benefit from the zoo with their households. This allowed me to really feel at residence in Abilene.

 Rico the fossa receives a bodily examination after sustaining an orthopedic harm.

The Abilene Zoo can also be residence to a clinic solely for injured and orphaned native birds. Whereas I frightened that my hen expertise was considerably poor after I arrived in Abilene, throughout my externship I used to be in a position to observe my diagnostic and medical expertise whereas additionally enhancing my native hen identification expertise. I didn’t anticipate to get pleasure from my work within the rehabilitation heart as a lot as I did. Nevertheless, working in direction of returning wild birds to their habitats, thereby giving them a second probability and serving to to assist their ecosystems, was extremely rewarding.

After I wasn’t on the zoo, I used to be grateful to have the ability to accompany Dr. Carle and Dr. Nance as they fulfilled their different skilled obligations. Throughout my three weeks, their enthusiasm for educating and fielding questions by no means waned. I visited the Abilene Animal Companies Adoption Heart to finish evaluations of latest small animal residents, and in addition joined Dr. Carle throughout her shifts on the native emergency clinic. There, I noticed instances I possible wouldn’t have encountered within the northeast, together with superior heartworm illness and rattlesnake envenomation.

 A neonatal steenbok undergoes her first examination.

I gained quite a lot of information from taking part within the journal group on the zoo and dealing by way of pattern instances with the veterinary group. I used to be in a position to dwell on the zoo all through my externship, so my down time was spent conducting analysis and getting ready a presentation I gave on the shut of the externship on dietary look after zoo animals.


I’m tremendously grateful for all the folks and animals I met and discovered from whereas in Abilene. I left this externship armed with new information and expertise, images to cherish, mentors to look as much as, and a newfound appreciation for Texas delicacies.

 Extra bonding time with Daphne!

Colleen Sorge, Class of 2024, is a Cornell DVM pupil from Lengthy Island, NY. She obtained her undergraduate diploma in Animal Science from Cornell College in 2020. She has a variety of pursuits throughout the veterinary area, together with each small animal and wildlife drugs.


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