How Do You Give a Snake A Physical, Or A Leopard A Blood Test? It's Just A Day At The SB Zoo

Mar 13, 2019

We’re following Dr. Julie Barnes as she prepares to do part of a checkup. Her patient is unusual. It’s a rare snow leopard, normally only seen in Asia. This is part of a typical day for Barnes, who is the Zoo’s Vice President of Animal Care and Health. The veterinary staff at the zoo has a big job, being charged with overseeing the well being of more than 500 animals ranging from gorillas to cobras.

In a backstage area behind exhibits at the Santa Barbara Zoo, Everett is going to undergo some tests. The big cat is getting blood pressure tests, and a blood draw as part of efforts to manage his high blood pressure, and other geriatric issues.

The zoo's staff to know a lot about everything from the eating habits of cobras to the behavior of penguins, because unlike people, they can’t say they don’t feel well. Barnes says they are constantly checking on the welfare of the zoo’s residents.

In the case of Everett, the snow leopard, a keeper is giving him some treats while Barnes is preparing to check the big cat’s blood pressure, and take a blood sample. For safety, the cat’s tail, which will be used for the tests, is sticking through an opening in a metal cage.

Inside the Zoo’s clinic, another team is working over a small exam table. There’s a Toucan on the table, sleeping after being put under an anesthetic. They are checking the mineral levels in its system. 

With such a wide collection of animals, Barnes says they have to know something about all kinds of animals, and be prepared to deal with anything.