Fort Wayne Zoo Veterinarian to Congress: Zoos ready to help with oil spill

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Press release from the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo:

Fort Wayne Zoo Veterinarian to Congress: Zoos ready to help with oil spill

When Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo Veterinarian Joseph Smith spoke to a standing room-only crowd at a Congressional briefing yesterday in Washington, D.C., he told them that zoos across the United States are “packed and ready” to assist wildlife affected by the Gulf oil spill.

Dr. Smith is playing a key role in organizing zoo professionals from around the country to help clean oiled birds and other wildlife affected by the disaster. The Congressional briefing was coordinated by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), a professional organization that accredits zoos and aquariums, including the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. Smith has served as the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo’s full-time veterinarian since 2003.

At the Congressional briefing on Tuesday, Dr. Smith explained the role that zoos can play in the crisis. “We have the resources and the professional staff to help clean oiled wildlife,” he said. “We have personnel who’ve gone through training, and we’ve lined up lodging. We’re just waiting for the call.” Dr. Smith is coordinating zoo efforts with agencies currently working in the Gulf area.

The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is among dozens of zoos nationwide that have committed to sending a crew of professional zoo keepers to the Gulf when needed.

Smith’s personal connection to the Gulf of Mexico, where he grew up bird watching in Louisiana’s estuaries, motivated him to get involved in this effort.

In the last few days, crews working on the Gulf coast have seen an influx of oiled birds. As of June 9, more than 440 oiled birds had been rescued, and 40 have been cleaned and released. About 630 oiled birds have been found dead.

So far, rescue organizations in Louisiana have been able to deal with the oiled birds in need of cleaning, but Smith believes that zoos’ help will be needed in the next few weeks. “The oil is not going away anytime soon,” he said. “We are ready to help.”


The Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo is one of the area’s major attractions and was named one of the country’s “Ten Best Zoos for Kids” by Parents magazine.

The zoo is open every day from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. until October 10. Admission is $13.00 for adults, $8.00 for children age 2-14 and $10.00 for seniors over age 60. Babies age 1 and under and Zoo Society Members are admitted free.

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