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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Overview of Zoo Animals

By Michael R. Loomis, DVM, MA, DACZM, Chief Veterinarian, North Carolina Zoological Park


The physical health as well as the social and behavioral well-being of zoo animals depends on enclosure design, nutrition, husbandry, management, group social structure, behavioral enrichment, and good medical and surgical care. Naturalistic enclosures with soil and vegetation are appealing to the public and more stimulating for the animals, but they present challenges for both sanitation and parasite control programs and may complicate restraint procedures. Mixed species exhibits may increase risk of disease transmission between species and can result in interspecific aggression if appropriate choices are not made.

This chapter provides a general discussion of management practices, preventive medicine, clinical care programs, and some of the more commonly encountered disorders in zoo animals. For more specific information, refer to other chapters within this section (eg, see Amphibians; see Marine Mammals; see Llamas and Alpacas; see Ratites; see Nonhuman Primates; see Reptiles; and see Vaccination of Exotic Mammals). For more information on nutrition, see Nutrition: Exotic and Zoo Animals.