We all expect high standards for health care for ourselves and our loved ones. Pet owners value the importance of excellent veterinary care for their animal companions. The Aquarium of the Pacific also believes in providing the best medical care possible for its animals. With the opening of the Molina Animal Care Center, the Aquarium is at the vanguard of aquatic veterinary medicine.
Most people are not aware of the level of care that the 11,000 animals receive at the Aquarium. In addition to feeding them restaurant-quality food and ensuring that they have precisely what they need in their customized exhibits, the animals are given regular exams. And over the years, there have been times that an unusual condition developed in a marine animal that allowed Aquarium staff to blaze new territory in animal care.
Innovative techniques have been used in a number of operations by our veterinary staff. New surgical procedures were successfully conducted on a sea otter to repair internal eye damage to one eye and to remove a cataract in the other eye. A moray eel needed a large growth removed from its head. A sawfish had an unfortunate encounter with a shark and injured its rostrum (a saw-like bill). Luckily, such serious conditions are uncommon, but the Aquarium’s talented staff is prepared to deal with them. And with the Molina Animal Care Center, they will be better equipped to handle the myriad veterinary needs of our animals.
Diagnosing an exotic animal’s illness can be particularly difficult because they instinctively hide problems. An aquarist might call the doctor if an animal has not been eating normally, but in such cases, observation is the best tool. When necessary, it is important that the Aquarium is equipped to properly investigate and fix problems. Ultrasounds have been done on the female sea lions when pregnancy was suspected. X-rays have been taken of sharks. Anesthesia has been given to fish when undergoing surgery. When an animal is not well, the Aquarium provides the best care possible.
The Aquarium’s animal care team is composed of more than 50 staff members. Dr. Lance Adams is the veterinarian. Colleen McLaughlin is the veterinary technician. Like many veterinary professionals at zoos and aquariums, providing medical care to the animals means understanding and caring for thousands of species. Still, like other animal doctors, aquarium veterinarians diagnose illnesses, perform surgery and prescribe medicines. Additionally, many other staff members ensure the animals’ health and behind-the-scenes safety by assisting with medical, quarantine, and breeding activities.
Another extremely important aspect to caring for marine life is water quality. Like the air we breathe, sea water needs to be clean and free of contaminants for aquatic animals to be healthy and thrive. The Aquarium also relies heavily on the staff in charge of life support, which refers to the people who make sure the nuts and bolts of all the exhibits are working properly. Without proper drainage, filtration, and electrical supply, the Aquarium would not be able to create habitats that mimic the real world.