This week at Flamingo Land our zoo keepers have been collecting lots of poo so that it can be sent to the lab to be tested for bacteria, worms and other infections. This process occurs twice a year and all of the animals in the zoo need to have a faecal sample taken and tested. Our animals produce faeces in a whole range of sizes, quantities and frequencies! The sample has to be taken and placed into a tube, thus it is not the most glamorous job that our zoo keepers have to do!
Most of the faecal samples will be taken from the animal houses first thing in the morning after the animals have been kept in overnight. This will ensure that the faecal sample definitely has come from the animal that sleeps in there, as opposed to collecting it from an outdoor paddock which multiple species may share. The collection is taken over three days to ensure that samples have been taken from several individuals of each species. However, some animals may not defecate every day. Some of our reptiles may only defecate after eating so we may have to wait a bit longer before we are able to obtain a sample from every animal in the zoo.
Once we have our samples, they get sent off to a laboratory for tests to be carried out. The tests are able to pick up on a range of parasite infections, therefore appropriate medicine and treatment can be provided to any animals that require it. Some animals may have to be isolated from others to ensure that they do not pass on the infection to any other animals. Our staff wear gloves where appropriate and foot baths can also be put in place if necessary. Some infections can be passed on to humans, and vice versa, therefore any animal enclosures which visitors are allowed to enter (such as the lemur and wallaby walkway, and for the meerkat and penguin encounters) may have to be temporarily closed. Most infections are not too serious, but it is important to check the health and welfare of the animal regularly to ensure they are in a comfortable environment. Fingers crossed that we get the all clear for the majority of our animals!