Public Viewing Areas In Zoo Hospitals: A Great Opportunity For Public Education
In the past 5 yr, several zoological facilities have built or expanded their hospital building to include
guest viewing areas. This type of guest interaction has become increasingly popular and offers tremendous opportunities for guest
education. Our guests are exceedingly interested in veterinary medicine and capturing their attention during medical procedures
allows important education messages to be passed on to the audience.
The hospital facility at Disney's Animal Kingdom includes a medical viewing arena as part of a larger major
attraction. Conservation Station gives our guests an opportunity to view behind the scenes at a large zoological facility. Here
guests can view the daily operations of our animal department by controlling cameras that have been mounted in our animal holding
areas and exhibits. In the Hall of Animal Care, guests can watch and learn about diet preparation, biotelemetry, field
conservation efforts, infant care techniques, animal communication, fecal hormone analysis, and zoological medicine.
Every day, medical and surgical procedures are carried out in the hospital viewing area. Specially trained
"Hosts and Hostesses" help welcome the guests to the hospital and describe what procedures are taking place. The "Hosts and
Hostesses" have received instruction on a variety of topics including preventive medicine, anesthesia, quarantine, medical
terminology, and veterinary instrumentation. At the same time, the veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and hospital keepers
also utilize cordless microphones to help discuss the veterinary procedures that are being carried out.
This veterinary viewing room is a fully equipped surgical suite with gas anesthesia, rigid and flexible
endoscopy, electrocautery, and ultrasonography. Four large TV monitors are used to help project images to the guests. These
monitors have been placed both within the hospital room and outside the viewing window on the guests' side for improved guest
viewing. The monitors can be linked to the endoscopic equipment, ultrasound machines or to a camera that has been mounted on the
surgery lights. This camera provides a "bird's eye view" of surgical procedures and allows guests a close-up look at procedures
with small animals.
In addition to the primary viewing area, guests can also look into the clinical pathology laboratory and
radiology suite. Guests can watch as veterinary technicians perform hematologic and fecal examinations. The microscope can be
linked to the TV monitors so that guests can see and be educated about blood cell types and zoo animal parasitology. The hospital
building also contains a sterile surgical suite. This room has a ceiling mounted camera enabling guests to view surgical
procedures. The surgery suite is equipped with a hydraulic equine surgery table and has enough room to work with most animals
weighing up to 1000 kg. This room is also used for procedures which may be inappropriate for guests to view; during these
procedures, the camera is locked out from public access. When procedures are not occurring, presentations are given by hospital
staff members on animal health related topics. Radiographs, medical instruments, biofacts, and posters are used to describe topics
such as parasitology, anesthesia, remote injection systems, quarantine, etc. During those times when procedures or presentations
are not occurring, the monitors are linked to a continuous video loop that describes the field of zoological medicine. The primary
educational messages we hope to share with our guests include:
A greater understanding of current
advances in veterinary medicine,
A greater understanding of zoological
The importance of preventive medicine
and a greater appreciation of the quality of care our animals receive,
A better understanding of the natural
history of different species, and
An improved awareness of conservation
A guest survey was done in the Hall of Animal Care to determine what messages the guests took from their
observations. Guests consistently rated their experience as positive and indicated that the animal care message was the one most
commonly received. The veterinary viewing area has reached approximately 12,000-14,000 individuals per month since it opened.
The authors are indebted to the hospital keepers and veterinary technicians for their hard work in creating
and maintaining the veterinary show. We would also like to thank Lidia Castro and Leanne Gagliardi for their help in training the
hosts and hostesses. A special thanks to Chris Herman for her assistance in manuscript preparation.