Planning parenthood in our baboon troop

Kira Hydock is an AAB Pre-Veterinary Fellow in Seneca Park Zoo‘s five-week, funded research and clinical fellowship for pre-vet college students this year. The AAB Pre-Veterinary program exposes fellows to animal medicine and conservation through the completion of a research project, observation of clinical procedures and rotations through animal care facilities and laboratories. Read on for the second installment of Kira’s blog posts about her experience at the Zoo this summer:

Baoons Pico-de-Limon (left), Olivella (back) and Kalamata (front). Photo by Kira Hydock

Baoons Pico-de-Limon (left), Olivella (back) and Kalamata (front). Photo by Kira Hydock

I could write about so many exciting things that happen every day, but the general theme for this week was “family planning” with the neutering of two male baboons, Pico-de-Limon and Samson, and the implantation of a contraceptive under the skin of one female, Sabina. After three female baboons had babies four years ago at an unexpectedly young age, the decision was made to introduce a contraceptive program, which would also reduce conflict within the troop by preventing the females from coming into swell (the outward signs of heat characterized by swollen and red rear end). Planned breeding and contraceptive programs are an important component of zoo medicine, both for the welfare of the animals on exhibit and for the health of the species in general.  Unplanned pregnancies can disrupt social order and create a situation in which one or several animals must be housed separately or transported to a different zoo. From a broader perspective, breeding programs like the AZA’s Species Survival Plan® (SSP) Program are essential for the maintenance of endangered and threatened species in captivity, which, according to AZA, ultimately contribute to conservation projects in the field.

Dr. Wyatt performing a contraceptive procedure on Pico-de-Limon with Kira Hydock monitoring heart rate. Photo by Randi Conway

Dr. Wyatt performing a contraceptive procedure on Pico-de-Limon with Kira Hydock monitoring heart rate. Photo by Randi Conway

Assisting in the baboons’ procedures was not only significant for me in that I learned a lot about breeding programs of animals in conservation care, but also because they were the first surgeries on zoo animals that I have ever observed. It was a unique and incredible experience to support Zoologist Robin English and Director of Animal Health and Conservation Dr. Wyatt throughout the process, and to monitor the effects of the anesthetic drugs through regular measurement of heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, and other vital parameters. I cannot thank them enough for offering me such an amazing opportunity! Look out for more of Kira’s stories about her AAB Pre-Veterinary fellowship on the Seneca Park Zoo Keeper Blog this summer!