The Bronx Zoo's Wildlife Health Center, which opened in 1985 and was recently expanded to over 30,000 square feet with the construction of an adjacent Quarantine Facility, is a renowned teaching and research hospital that implements the latest medical and surgical treatment technologies and on-site pathology diagnostic capabilities and serves as a touchstone for training the next generation of zoological health professionals.
Whether treating a tiny fish or a five-ton elephant, our veterinary clinicians and pathologists deliver expert diagnostic and emergency care to a diverse array of terrestrial and aquatic species. We care for more than 16,000 fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals of over 1,000 species at WCS's five New York City facilities—the Bronx Zoo, New York Aquarium, and the Central Park, Queens, and Prospect Park Zoos. The 15,000 sq. ft. Aquatic Animal Health Center at the New York Aquarium and the veterinary clinics at the Central Park, Queens, and Prospect Park Zoos serve as our bases in each park.
Based at the Bronx Zoo and as one of only a few zoo-based, exotic animal and wildlife diagnostic pathology services in the world, the Department of Pathology and Disease Investigation has consistently been a leader in diagnosing animal diseases throughout its history. Through their expertise, and in conjunction with WCS's clinical and field veterinarians, curatorial scientists, and field scientists, our pathologists are uniquely positioned to investigate diseases (including those that are emergent), of captive and free-ranging terrestrial and marine animals in WCS's NY-based collections and wild animals around the globe. Primary anatomic pathology activities include gross necropsy examination and microscopy, which form the critical foundation on which all of our diagnostic investigations are based. The recent addition and ongoing development of in-house molecular diagnostics provides enhanced options for disease diagnostics and pathogen discovery at the Bronx Zoo and genetic testing (DNA ‘barcoding’) for species identification. This research effort includes the creation of post-doctoral research position in molecular diagnostics to further develop these DNA based tests, including polymerase chain reaction, for application to zoo and aquarium species and diseases.
The dedicated staff of Department of Pathology and Disease Investigation consists of three veterinary pathologists with specialty certification in anatomic pathology, a veterinary pathology resident, a post-doctoral molecular diagnostics fellow, a part-time pathology technician, two histotechnicians, and a medical records specialist. Facilities and equipment include a large necropsy suite, Biosafety Level 3 biocontainment glovebox, tissue trim room, full-service histology laboratory, molecular diagnostics laboratory, extensive biomaterials archives and training resource materials, multi-headed microscope, digital imaging equiment, offices, a conference room, and a library.
Aquatic Health Department
In conjunction with the New York Aquarium’s Ocean Wonders 2015 exhibit, the Zoological Health Program created the new Aquatic Animal Medicine and Pathology Department. The establishment of this department enabled for the first time a full-time veterinarian to be based at the New York Aquarium. It is also the first to be dedicated to the medical care and pathology diagnosis of illnesses and deaths in invertebrates and fish. This complements the Aquarium’s long standing veterinary program in which veterinarians based at the Wildlife Health Center travel to the Aquarium for regular veterinary rounds to care for the Aquarium’s reptiles, birds, and marine mammals.The New York Aquarium’s Aquatic Animal Health Center is well suited for our marine animals. Aquarium vets perform complex diagnostic, surgical, and follow-up care in their own 15,000-square-foot medical and research center. Water quality analyses, along with microscopy and hematology, take place in a sophisticated clinical laboratory. Staff can maneuver radiographic equipment on a rail in the surgical suite, use an x-ray or radiograph machine to peer at the organs of amphibians and fish, and monitor mammal pregnancies with ultrasound. Isolation wards feature five-foot-deep pools that hold mammals in freshwater, seawater, or brackish water. The center is equipped with a 706-square-foot pool, decontamination room, diet kitchen, and pharmacy, and occasionally houses rescued stranded marine animals.
Photo Credit: Julie Larsen Maher/ WCS