| Memo to the National Zoological Park Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee |
To: NZP IACUC
From: Don Nichols and Lisa Stevens
Subject: Inspection of Cheetah and Hoofed Stock areas following the death of a Grevy’s Zebra on Feb. 1, 2000
We inspected the Cheetah Conservation Station, Hardy Hoof and Deer Areas over three days, February 8, 9 & 10, 2000. We were assisted by Craig Saffoe, Dennis Davis and Stuart Wells. This inspection was prompted by the recent death of a Grevy’s zebra. This zebra died from hypothermia and was found at necropsy to be nutritionally compromised, having metabolized all body fat stores. Our findings are summarized as follows: Investigation of Circumstances Surrounding Zebra Death
Conflicting information by keeper staff, curator, and written records made it difficult to determine exactly what the animal was fed prior to death. The best determination is that it was being fed between 2 and 4 lbs of low protein pellets once a day and ½ bale of hay divided into 2 feedings per day. Previously, each zebra had received 4-5 lbs of pellets and 4 flakes of hay per day. However, at the instruction of the head veterinarian, Lucy Spelman, the zebras had been dieted at 2 lbs of low-pro pellets and 2-3 flakes of hay. We were told verbally that this dietary change occurred over about a month period beginning in October, however the animal’s arks record has the reduced diet starting on Nov. 1. Because the keeper staff and curator thought the zebras looked much worse on the reduced diet, the diet was increased to approximately 3-4 lbs of pellets and 3-4 flakes of hay per day beginning in mid-December.
During the cold weather prior to the zebra’s death, the zebras were kept together in the holding yard and were given access to the stalls but were not locked indoors in sub-freezing temperatures. There was also conflicting information about the zebra lock-in policy but the written husbandry protocol (dated October 1999) stipulated that zebras were to be separated and locked individually in stalls only when temperatures are below 10oF. The stalls, which had concrete floors, were not bedded. The heat in each stall was limited to a single wall-mounted pig-warmer, which emitted minimal heat. The pig warmers were protected by metal bars. At the time of the IACUC inspection, the metal bars were very cold even though they were adjacent (<10 cm) to the heat source. Stuart stated that the old radiant heat lamps were removed from the stalls during the renovation and without his input. The stalls were very drafty, even when the doors were closed. Inspection of the Zebra Area
At the time of the inspection the remaining two zebras looked thin, with muscle atrophy visible at the shoulders, rump, tail base and chest. The animals were standing in the holding yard and on the yard fence were 2 hay nets hung incorrectly, so that they were within 3 feet of the ground. Hay nets hung this low around equids pose a hazard for leg entanglement. The diets of the zebra had been increased and changed from once to twice daily feedings following the death of the one zebra. However, at the time of the inspection it was nearly 10 A.M. and the zebra had not yet been fed their morning ration of pellets because the keeper was busy tending to paperwork. Although the temperatures were below freezing, the animals did not have bedding in their enclosures the previous night and had not been locked in. The reason given for not locking the zebras in individual stalls was that they would scrape and bruise themselves on the door and walls of the stall if confined to the stall. The reason stated for not using bedding was that the animals would eat it. Within the stalls, rubber mats had been put on the floors and weather-stripping had been added around the doors to cut down on drafts since the death of the zebra. Heaters (blower type) were being installed at the time of the inspection, however these were being reduced to half power because of the limited electrical supply and in one case were being placed next to the stall door. Inspection of Speke’s Gazelle Area
There were only two gazelles remaining at the time of the inspection (the female has since died). The animals were individually locked in stalls that were very similar to the zebra stalls, with concrete floors and a single pig warmer for heat. The female gazelle was lying on a small pile of hay, without mats, adjacent to the pg warmer. We were given the opportunity to view this female with the safety gates in the aisle ajar. It was explained that it was not necessary to close the gate because this gazelle “is calm”. We were not able to determine the weight status of the female as she was lying in hay and her coat was fluffed. When we asked why mats were not in use, we were told the animals did not like them and would not walk on them. The male was also locked in. Due to his skittish nature, only Don had only a quick look in at him. He was standing next to the pig warmer, stamping a front foot, and vocalizing. His coat was also fluffed up so his weight was difficult to assess. Each gazelle is given about 1 lb of pellets and a flake of hay per day; this was reported to be slightly more than they consume per day. Inspection of Dorcas Gazelle Area
During this winter, the two Dorcas gazelles and three African crowned cranes have been spending most of their time at the bottom of the dry moat in their yard; this area provides some protection from wind. There only inside shelter was one approx. 6’X12’ stall, the door to which formed one wall and is left open. The only heat source in this stall is one pig warmer. The stall was bedded with hay but again no mats were in use. The yard gate was not secured by the keeper after our entry into the yard. The gazelles fled the dry moat area as we entered, causing Don to return to close the gate. The gazelles and cranes are not fed in the stalls routinely during the warm months and are flighty when they enter. They are also flighty around the staff. The gazelles are given about 1 lb of pellets and 1-2 flakes of hay daily; this was reported to be more than they consume. The gazelles appeared to be thin. The cranes are fed pellets ad libitum from a yard hopper. Inspection of Cheetah area
Cheetahs are intentionally kept at minimum normal weight. The only sources of heat are pig warmers. At the time of the inspection, one animal with medical problems was living in the building and radiate heat had been supplied to her in order to give her more warmth. The other animals are not locked in the building because they become stressed when locked into small areas. Stuart felt this stress was associated with an outbreak of herpesvirus in the cheetahs that occurred a few years ago after a cold winter. According to Stuart and the written protocols, cheetahs are only locked in when temperatures are below 0 degree F during wet conditions or with –10 degree F wind chill in dry conditions. Otherwise they live in the holding areas with plastic houses for shelter or in the exhibits with yard “caves” for shelter. The plastic houses we viewed were minimally bedded; the concrete floors were visible through the bedding. The heat was turned off to the houses not being used, but there was apparently no system in place to alert staff that the heat was off and remind them that it needed to be turned back on when re-occupied. Inspection of the bison and prairie dog area
Both bison looked thin. Their backs, shoulders and rumps appeared to be under-developed, even for juvenile animals. The bison were eating when we arrived. After the male bison finished his pellets, he chewed on the frayed end of a rope that was dangling from the restraint chute. Several other ropes were noted to be hanging within the animal’s reach. The bison were left locked in the yard weather for about 3 weeks during the cold, snowy weather. This was done because bison are known to be very cold tolerant and because of concern about the potential for the animals to slip and be injured on the smooth concrete ramp leading from the yard to the shelter.
On the day of our inspection, a prairie dog escaped by climbing up a snow bank adjacent to the wall of the enclosure. It was safely captured by facilities staff. When Lisa informed the keepers of the code green they responded without nets or sky kennel. Lisa was left with the impression that they were relying on the Small Mammal staff to provide them.. The prairie dogs looked fine. They occasionally have bite wounds but have not had any other problems. The yard drainage problem has been corrected. Inspection of the rabbit exhibit
This is a relatively new exhibit (only open a few months) and there have been many problems associated with intra-specific aggression and exhibition of the rabbits. The curator and keeper staff have been working to try to solve these problems but expressed a great amount of frustration over this endeavor. At the time of the inspection, all rabbits were being kept off-exhibit in their hutches. Heat is provided by a mini pig warmer in each hutch and radiant heat lamps directed t the water bottles. The water bottles were still freezing and keepers needed to rotate unfrozen water bottles in during the day. We anticipate there will be problems with heat next summer. The only current provisions for heat control are shade cloth and the use of frozen water bottles in the hutches. Inspection of the bongo area, tapir area, and deer area
Cage cards, diets, and lock-in policies were clearly posted in these areas. Roofs over all the main buildings in these areas are rotting and leak and should be repaired or replaced. However, the leaks do not occur in animal areas, food storage areas, or food preparation areas, thus they do not yet present an animal welfare concern. The 3 bongos look thin. The stalls have radiant heat source and appeared to be adequately heated. The animals had bedding but no mats were in use.
The marabou storks were locked in dilapidated quarters for the winter; this was very small, poorly lighted, and difficult to clean thoroughly. Stuart was unsure about how many storks were in the unit.
We did not see the muntjac. Stuart was unsure as to how many muntjac were in the collection and where they were housed.
The tapirs looked thin. There was radiant heat and large pig warmers in these stalls. There was hay/straw bedding but no mats. On the day of the inspection, it was relatively warm so we are not able to judge whether the heat is adequate for them. The stalls looked small for the amount of time the animals must spend indoors.
The Burmese brow antlered deer also looked thin. Heat sources were comparable to the other stalls. The three deer had access to only 2 stalls. Summary
In all inspected areas, food was properly stored and food preparation areas were adequate and kept clean. There appeared to be no problems with vermin.
In general, each animal appears to be cared for in a minimal way. Most mammals (other than rabbits and prairie dogs) appeared to be thin. There is no effort to provide more than the minimum bedding. No matting is used other than in the zebra stalls. Neither browse nor enrichment was provided for the hoofstock.
Cage cards, diets and lock in directions were only posted in the Bongo, Deer and Tapir Area, but the information presented was inconsistent and in some cases out of date. For the other areas, this information was often difficult to obtain and conflicting information was given. The written protocols that were produced were outdated and/or not dated. Some of the staff expressed a lack of knowledge of the animals under their care. We were unable to determine diets and were given conflicting information between the keepers and curator. One keeper called us back to correct misinformation given earlier. The winter husbandry protocols for many of the species appear to push the animals to their tolerance limits; cheetahs and zebras are left outdoors down to 0 degrees F and 10 degrees F respectively, kept at minimal weight and have inadequate heat sources. Animals are given minimal stall space, even when the weather is extreme.
The keeper staff expressed a lack of confidence in the curator. They did not have buy0in to the written protocols, as their views had not been incorporated into these protocols. They spoke of sneaking extra food to animals. Issues resurfaced such as the decision by the curator to move a Speke’s gazelle and calf, which contributed to the injury of the dam, and possibly the death of the calf. Keepers expressed a concern that yard maintenance is seemingly being made a priority over animal care. Keepers also stated that they were criticized if any food was leftover following feeding.
There appears to be multiple personnel issues in this area which foster poor communication and collaboration within the unit and also between the unit and other departments (e.g. Animal Health and Nutritional Resources). This has had an impact on animal management. Restricting the diets of the zebras apparently was not discussed in a collaborative process between keeper staff, curator, veterinary staff, and nutritionist, and a consensus was not reached.
There are unresolved issues in this unit which need to be addressed in order to avoid future problems. Multiple complaints regarding the rabbits, Speke’s gazelles, and bison chute have been forwarded to the IACUC in the past. Recommendations General
Winter is not the time of year to restrict the diet of animals that are housed outside and/or have access to inadequately heated stalls. Caloric contents of diets should be increased during winter. The condition of these animals should be closely monitored at all times, especially during winter. Criteria for monitoring their condition (e.g. weights or muscle mass) need to be clearly established and implemented. All diets for animals in the inspected areas need to be reviewed by the zoo’s nutritionist and posted. All dietary changes should be dated and posted.
Winter husbandry and lock-in protocols should be reviewed and revised. Keeper staff should have input in this process so they will be more likely to comply with the new protocols. In general, animals should be locked in at night when temperatures are below freezing. Locking animals in overnight also helps to habituate animals to veterinary care and support pasture management.
Staff should be trained in basic animal husbandry principles for all species in their area. Goals should be established for each species to improve their management (e.g. gazelles will be habituated to mats so they can be used in their stalls during winter; the male Speke’s gazelle will be better habituated to people).
Animal care must be given the highest priority. When staff begin their day, animal care should be the first priority; other projects are secondary.
Improvements need to be made in communication within the unit and between the unit and other departments. Expertise of other zoo personnel should be used to help resolve animal management and personnel issues. Specific
The zebra and other hoofstock should be habituated to being locked in, for gradually longer periods of time, during the warm months so they can be locked in without injuring themselves when it is cold. Rough edges and old metal on the doors could be padded or covered to prevent some of the injuries. Animals should routinely be fed in apron and stall areas to habituate them to people and thereby reduce skittishness.
The heat in the zebra and gazelle stalls is inadequate and must be increased. These stalls should be bedded. Floor mats would also provide additional insulation; animals can be habituated to the mats by using them year-round and feeding animals on the mats.
The Dorcas gazelles and cranes should be given a larger stall. There was a stall, at least twice as large, adjacent to this one, which was not in use. Use of this stall would provide additional space as well as heat sources for the animals and permit them to move away from the open doorway.
Safety gates should be used at all times.
The cheetahs should have a building suitable for long-term holding in case of prolonged adverse weather conditions or for management of medical conditions. The heat currently provided to the cheetah building is inadequate, except where the radiant heat had been added to supplement the heat provided to one cage.
Animals can ingest rope and become obstructed. The ropes in the bison area need to be kept tucked out of their reach.
It is not clear why the ramp in the bison yard was not routinely cleared of snow for the animals to use. It may be possible to alter this ramp to make it less slippery when wet.
It is likely that prairie dogs will occasionally escape from their exhibit in the future. The staff in this area should have emergency equipment available and should store such equipment in the bison area for ready use.
Frost-free waterers could be provided for the rabbits.
Fans and/or air conditioners may be needed in the summer to prevent the temperatures in rabbit hutches from becoming too high.
Winter holding quarters for the marabou storks should be improved.
Roofs of the buildings in the bongo, tapir, and deer area need to be repaired or replaced.
Cage cards should be used in all areas; those in the bongo, deer, and tapir area need to be standardized and updated.
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