Zoo wins veterinary, animal care and conservation awards in September

October 8, 2013 - 2:56pm

Zoo's animal-care experts are honored by peers at three national conferences

It feels like awards season at the Oregon Zoo. While some zoo staffers were at the Association of Zoos and Aquariums conference last month — accepting AZA honors for conservation and marketing — more of the zoo's animal-care experts were at separate professional gatherings, earning accolades of their own.

"We see their passion here every day in the great work they do to promote animal welfare and conservation."

—Kim Smith, zoo director

Veterinary technician Margot Monti was recognized for a paper she delivered at the 33rd annual Association of Zoo Veterinary Technicians conference, held Sept. 5-9 in Seward, Alaska. Monti's presentation, "Cardiovascular Irregularities in Veterinary Patients Under Anesthesia," received the conference's Best Paper award — one of just two awards given out annually by the association (the other is for lifetime achievement).

The presentation — aimed at enhancing vet care by bringing a deeper understanding of the physiological process that occurs during anesthesia — featured a memorable audience-participation component: To demonstrate the ways anesthetic drugs can affect heart functions, Monti asked conference attendees to simulate various irregular heartbeats using their arms and legs to represent the chambers of the heart.

"I got a lot of great feedback," the zoo vet tech said. "Both about how this helped cement people's understanding of the material and how it provided some fun, much-needed aerobic exercise during a day of sitting and listening to lectures."

A few days later, marine life keeper Jenny DeGroot brought back two more awards from the 41st annual International Marine Animal Trainers' Association conference, held Sept. 8-13 in Las Vegas. "Polar Bear Voluntary Blood Draw Training," a paper DeGroot presented on behalf of the zoo's marine life team, took first place in the husbandry-training category and second place in the people's choice awards.

DeGroot's presentation detailed the training that helped Oregon Zoo polar bear siblings Tasul and Conrad become the first polar bears in the world to voluntarily give blood — a significant advance that could improve animal welfare, especially during veterinary treatment.

Toward the end of the month, during the 40th annual American Association of Zoo Keepers conference, held Sept. 22-26 in Greensboro, N.C., the AAZK Portland chapter received the 2013 Chapter Award for its participation in Bowling for Rhinos, the association's largest conservation fundraising event.

The Portland AAZK chapter — which counts mostly Oregon Zoo keepers among its membership — raised $16,000 at this year's Bowling for Rhinos fundraiser, with all proceeds going to national parks in Africa and Asia that protect five species of rhinoceros while providing habitat for hundreds of other endangered plant and animal species.

Nationally, Bowling for Rhinos has raised close to $4.7 million since its 1990 inception, and Portland-area bowlers are responsible for more than $245,000 of that total — the second-most of any AAZK chapter in North America.

"We couldn't be prouder of our staff and all their achievements," said Kim Smith, zoo director. "We see their passion here every day in the great work they do to promote animal welfare and conservation, but it means a lot to be recognized by your peers at a national and even international level."

The Association of Zoo Veterinary Technicians is dedicated to all aspects of quality veterinary technical care in the field of zoo animal medicine. The International Marine Animal Trainers' Association was founded to foster communication, professionalism, and cooperation among those who serve marine mammal science through training, public display, research, husbandry, conservation and education. The American Association of Zoo Keepers is a nonprofit, volunteer organization made up of professional zookeepers and other interested persons dedicated to professional animal care and conservation.