When Oklahoma City Zoo veterinarian Jennifer D’Agostino surveys the construction of the new Joan Kirkpatrick Animal Hospital, her excitement for the project barely can be contained.
For one, the new 20,000-square-foot hospital will alleviate space issues at the current facility, which opened more than 30 years ago. But also, it will give D’Agostino and her staff a chance to show the public what they do.
The new animal hospital will include several viewing windows allowing zoo visitors to view some procedures ranging from lab work to surgeries.
Visitors will be able to watch as meals are prepared, and there will be monitors in the viewing area that will provide information about medical procedures being performed.
“This will be a great opportunity for the general public to learn what it takes to care for a collection this size,” D’Agostino said. “We can incorporate our conservation messages in with it, as well.”
She said that even though what the zoo does “isn’t direct conservation in the wild, we’re taking care of these animals so they are healthy, and they can share their stories with the public so they can care about these animals and their wild places and preserving those globally.”
Deputy Director Alan Varsik said some zoos have facilities the public can access, but it is far from the norm.
“That’s really the most exciting part of the project,” he said. “We can show the ways we care for our animals to our guests. They will get to see firsthand how we do that through treatment, or surgery or from a lab perspective. Even how we prepare diets. One of the fun parts of what we do is sharing what we do.”
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