As I mentioned in an earlier blog about the Conservation Station, Rafiki's Planet Watch is home to a veterinary window. Here, usually earlier in the morning, you can get a sneak peak into the veterinary care of a few of the animals at Animal Kingdom.
This past week, I just happened to have the two days off that the Giant Anteaters had their annual check-up. Every animal in Animal Kingdom receives an annual check-up, just to make sure that everything is okay and to receive any vaccinations they may need.
On Thursday, they started off with Spike, the male anteater. The check-up began with x-rays, which were taken in an area backstage. There was a window that we could see though, but your view was limited, so they had a camera projecting a much clearer image for those interested.
|limited view into the x-ray room|
|view into the x-ray room from the camera|
|the general operating/examination room|
|an x-ray from Spike|
In order to keep track of every animal on Animal Kingdom Property, Disney uses a common method of tagging. A small chip, about the size of a grain of rice, is placed in the animal. It works like a bar code, and can be scanned to bring up specific information about each individual. Some animals are too small to be tagged, like the frogs and invertebrates. Instead, they are identified by unique body patterns, markings, or by numbers.
They had an anteater skull on display as well. Anteaters have a hinged jaw, so their mouths only open wide enough to let their 2 foot tongue stretch out to reach some insects or termites. They have no teeth, but they use their sticky, wet tongue to slurp up the bugs and push them against the rough roof of their mouths. At Animal Kingdom, our anteaters are fed a diet of insectivore, which are pellets consisting of several types of bugs and nutrients, as well as the occasional fire-ant-infested log and overripe, mashed fruit. Termites, we were told, are a special treat. Another little tidbit of information we were given, was that the doctors had to be careful about keeping the anteaters tongue in its mouth. If the tongue would become extended, it would be difficult to get it back in while the animal was under anesthesia, and it could potentially dry out. The upper tongue muscles could also become damaged, so the doctors were very aware of this.
One of the really cool things about the veterinary presentations, is that there's always a presenter on hand, telling you about the procedure that's happening in front of you. If you have any questions, you can ask them. If they don't know the answer, they can pick up a nearby telephone and speak with one of the vets, specialists, or keepers inside the examination room.
|asking the keeper a question|
|carrying Spike to the examination table|
|beginning the examination|
|finding a vein to draw blood|
|taking the ultrasound|
|I believe they're checking his mouth and tongue|
|transferring Spike to his crate|
The top was put back into place, and Spike was taken backstage, where he could be woken in a darker, quieter area.
The female Giant Anteater, Annie, had her check-up the following day. Generally, she had the same procedures to check her heart and blood work. An ultrasound was also performed on her uterus and ovaries to make sure everything was as it should be. She has never been pregnant or given birth, but they wanted to ensure that nothing was abnormal. They also took x-rays.
|taking an ultrasound|
|the table of equipment used for the anteater check-up|
|The anteater keepers are the two on the right in this photo. They're there to help keep the anteaters comfortable, should they awaken slightly from their anesthesia.|
Sometimes, when the occasion arises, they'll let you speak in a microphone from our side of the window directly into the examination room. An individual who is not actively performing the examination on the animal will step off to the side and take the time to answer any of your questions. It's great to be able to have that interaction.
|speaking through the microphone|
|view of the purple medical tape on Annie's feet|
|finishing up the examination|
After her check-up, Annie was transferred back into her crate, just as Spike was. Once there, she actually had to have a little bit more blood drawn, because her original sample had clotted and they needed a new one.
|moving Annie to her crate|
|transporting Annie backstage... I'm not sure if you can see it or not, but she was actually starting to wake up at this point. They come out of the anesthesia very quickly.|
If you have any questions about the anteater check-ups, feel free to post them in the comments and I'll do my best to answer or find out the answer!