Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has opened a new 7,000 square foot veterinary hospital to provide specialized care for more than 1,000 animals at the Zoo and as a resource for state and federal wildlife professionals. Less than one week after the veterinary team began moving into the new hospital, which opened more than a month ahead of schedule, the Zoo received its first patient -- a wild Florida panther with shotgun wounds to the face and hind quarters.
TAMPA, Fla. (November 14, 2014) — Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo has opened a new 7,000 square foot veterinary hospital to provide specialized care for more than 1,000 animals at the Zoo and as a resource for state and federal wildlife professionals. Less than one week after the veterinary team began moving into the new hospital, which opened more than a month ahead of schedule, the Zoo received its first patient -- a wild Florida panther with shotgun wounds to the face and hind quarters.
“We can care for manatees, Key deer, black bears, panthers and other Florida wildlife at the Zoo because we have the passion and expertise to do so. It also takes facilities,” said Craig Pugh, CEO of the Zoo. “The new hospital is the cornerstone of an animal care campus that, when complete, will help distinguish the Zoo as a leader in conservation and veterinary care.”
The new hospital, located just off the boardwalk of the Florida Wildlife Center, has dedicated areas for surgery, pharmacy, radiology, labs, veterinary offices and holding for animal patients like the rescued panther, nicknamed “Uno” (as the first patient in the new hospital).
The approximately 2-year-old male was rescued in mid-October by biologists from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). A citizen alerted authorities after seeing the animal cross the road and stopping to avoid hitting it. When biologists immobilized the animal for examination, they saw that he had sustained shotgun blasts and had potentially been blinded. He was immediately taken to the Animal Specialty Hospital of Naples for urgent care, then brought to Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo for critical care and assessment just 24-hours after being removed from the wild.
“At the Zoo, we’re proud to work with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and FWC, to provide veterinary support for the wild panther population,” said Dr. Larry Killmar, VP of animal science and conservation at the Zoo. “Through this long-term relationship, the Zoo has an important role in helping evaluate and rehabilitate orphaned or injured panthers like this one.”
Uno is the ninth panther to receive care at the Zoo. Earlier this year the Zoo veterinary team successfully raised a neonatal kitten, known as “Yuma,” now living at Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park. Since 2007, the Zoo has been home to Florida panther “Calusa” or “Lucy” as she is affectionately known, who was rescued as an orphaned kitten.
For the current patient, medical evaluations performed by veterinarians including an ophthalmologist from BluePearl Veterinary Partners determined the shotgun blast to the face ruptured Uno’s right eye. Secondary infections in his left eye have rendered him clinically blind. He arrived extremely emaciated and had damage to his right leg from a second shotgun blast.
“As an organization with a strong commitment to Florida wildlife, we’re pleased we have the capacity to care for this animal and the infrastructure necessary to support his treatment,” said Dr. Ray Ball, director of medical sciences at the Zoo. “His health has improved significantly and he has adapted well to a managed setting – two of the keys to rehabilitation, though his future is still uncertain.”
Due to the loss of eyesight, Uno cannot be returned to the wild population. Wildlife professionals from USFWS, FWC and the Zoo will continue to work together to determine an appropriate long-term management plan for the animal.
In addition to the rehabilitation of Florida panthers, Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo is an active member of the field team for the FWC that tracks wild panthers and collects data for scientists and managers to determine the health of their population. It is estimated that 100-180 panthers remain in Florida.