veterinarians held Brownie, a pink flamingo, in place and lifted one of its legs.
Although Florida temperatures are generally warm, the last few chilly mornings had left Brownie’s webbed feet dry and cracked. In order to remedy the situation Thursday morning, the vets used cold laser therapy treatment on the bottoms of Brownie’s feet.
The difference between Thursday’s procedure and those in the past is that this one was performed in front of onlookers at the park’s new Animal Care Center, a nearly 16,000-square-foot facility located in the Nairobi area of the park where the rhino exhibit used to be.
“The part we’re most excited about is that it’s going to be open to the public,” said senior veterinarian Pete Black.
Once the center officially opens on Jan. 23, guests will have the opportunity to see firsthand how Busch Gardens cares for its animals in the park’s hospital and prepares meals for its animals in the park’s kitchen.
“In a zoological park, something like this is phenomenal,” said Wildlife Expert Jack Hanna, who was at the Animal Care Center Thursday for a special media preview. “This is state of the art and will be simulated throughout the world.”
The center is the first of its kind in the United States, Hanna said. He said there’s only one other in the world that’s similar—a facility in Healesville, Australia.
The hospital’s treatment rooms and clinical lab have glass walls that allow guests to see vets performing routine checkups and surgeries on animals inside. Cameras placed over the exam table show unique vantage points to guests, who can watch on large TV screens mounted to the walls. Audio capabilities allow guests and vets to talk to each other.
The kitchen is set up like that of a television cooking show. Guests can come right up to the counter and watch educators cut up fruits, vegetables and meats, as well as measure out pellets for the park’s animals. They might even get to prepare some of the meals themselves or see some of the smaller animals up close.
“Usually that’s behind the scenes,” said educator Jose Dominguez, who was preparing fruits and vegetables Thursday morning. “Now, it’s up front so you can see exactly what we do here.”
The goal of the center, officials said, is to teach guests about Busch Gardens’ more than 2,000 animals.
“You can see what they’re doing here is education,” Hanna said, “and you can’t have conservation without education.”
After vets performed the cold laser therapy treatment on the flamingo, they released it. Brownie had been carried into the treatment room just a few moments earlier; now, the flamingo was walking out.