Consensus Report

Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report (2005)


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This report follows up on an interim report released in February 2004 that focused on immediate needs in the areas of animal care and management, recordkeeping, and pest control. The report finds that the zoo has made good-faith efforts to correct deficiencies noted in the interim report and has made some noticeable improvements in the past year in zoo operations and animal care. However, problems in areas such as staff training, workplace culture, and strategic planning still need to be addressed. Specifically, the report recommends that the zoo immediately develop and implement animal-care training programs to ensure that people who are directly responsible for the well-being of its animal collection are adequately prepared and competent. The report commends a zoo-initiated strategic planning process as a positive step, but recommends it contain a more detailed, comprehensive strategy of how it will meet short-term goals and that it should link plans to upgrade facilities with those to acquire animals. The zoo should also focus on improving communication among keepers, veterinarians, nutritionists, senior managers, and curators.

Key Messages

  • A review of the CRC IACUC's activities for the last 5 years indicates that it actively reviewed all submitted animal research protocols. However, it failed to perform its other mandated activities, such as semiannual inspections.
  • Although the OHS program has written policies in place on good safety practices, there has been a lack of compliance with these policies in some areas of the zoo.
  • For many decades, the pathology department at the zoo has maintained an extraordinary reputation for excellence.
  • In a majority of cases, the animal received appropriate care throughout its lifetime.
  • The pest-control operation at the CRC facility has not experienced any difficulties. The unified system controlled by the new pest-control officer should minimize any future problems for the facility.
  • The preventive medicine program at the CRC was recently updated, and the committee finds it appropriate for all the taxa maintained at the CRC.
  • The strategic plan also does not link the zoo's vision with the animal-acquisition plan. The strategic plan does not take into account how the timeline for renovation and construction of animal exhibits should influence the animal-acquisition plan so that expansion of the animal collection will not tax facilities that are already failing.
  • The zoo does not have its own human-resources plan, and the current strategic plan does not include projections of the staffing levels necessary to support the new strategic vision of the zoo.
  • The zoo is updating and revising its zoo-wide policies with input from each unit, but protocols for husbandry, management, and enrichment have yet to be developed in many cases
  • The zoo recognizes that communication is critical for its own revitalization and for ensuring high-quality animal management and care.
  • The zoo still needs to address how it plans to train all employees uniformly on zoo procedures.
  • The zoo's knowledge base has stagnated.
  • There are numerous examples of failure to keep adequate medical records in the CRC veterinary hospital.
  • There is also a concern with the zoo's zoonosis program: testing and immunization requirements are not being determined by personnel trained and experienced in occupational health and infectious disease and as a result are inconsistent across the zoo.
  • when they began as volunteers or employees of the zoo.