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Animal Care and Management at the National Zoo: Final Report
Other recommendations that must be addressed are the establishment of clear standards of professional behavior at all levels; filling the head positions in the clinical nutrition and pathology departments with highly qualified individuals; and following through on efforts currently underway, such as establishing a comprehensive integrated pest management (IPM) effort, developing electronic recordkeeping systems, and completing and documenting diet evaluations. For the zoo to regain its preeminence in the zoo community, the leadership of the Smithsonian Institution and the zoo must ensure that resources and support continue to flow into the zoo so that it can address these major obstacles.
The National Academies was explicitly charged to focus narrowly, considering only those matters that related specifically and directly to animal management, husbandry, health, and welfare. Only those aspects of conservation, education, and science that affect animal care and management were within the scope of this review For example, the committee was not asked to review the education programs, the scientific quality of the research carried out at the zoo, or the scope or effectiveness of its conservation programs. Evaluating the adequacy or inadequacy of funding to support the various zoo activities or making recommendations on personnel or leadership changes was not within the committee's charge.
It is beyond the scope of the committee’s charge to dictate either specific remedies to address the recommendations of this report or specific time frames for effecting change, as there are many factors that will influence decision-making, such as the skills and workloads of individual staff and the availability of resources (human and capital), about which the committee lacks information. Instead, the committee identifies performance measures that the zoo has implemented to monitor the effectiveness and timeliness of recent changes, and comments on the adequacy of these measures, or notes where additional performance measures are needed. Ultimately, the zoo director and senior management must be held accountable for effectively correcting deficiencies in a timely manner.
In this final report, the findings deal primarily, but not exclusively, with issues not addressed in the interim report, such as the strategic plan, human resources, training, and occupational health and safety. This final report discusses whether the institution is responding adequately to concerns raised in the interim report and addresses three additional topics: a scientific evaluation of recent animal deaths, a review of CRC operations to determine whether the problems at the Rock Creek Park facility identified in the interim report were also evident at the CRC, and an assessment of whether practices and physical conditions at the zoo were improving.
PROGRESS AT THE NATIONAL ZOO SINCE RELEASE OF INTERIM REPORT
Since the release of the interim report, which dealt almost exclusively with the Rock Creek Park facility, the zoo staff and management have expended enormous time and energy to enact positive changes at the zoo as quickly as possible. Some of the changes were in response to findings in the interim report; others, such as reviewing and documenting animal diets in a database, were started before the release of the interim report as a result of the zoo’s own examination of its operations.
Over the last 6 months, the veterinary staff have eliminated the backlog of preventive-medicine procedures at the Rock Creek Park facility and staff at both the Rock Creek Park and CRC facilities have reviewed and updated their preventive-medicine protocols and established a monthly performance measure for tracking adherence to their protocols (currently, 100% of scheduled preventive-medicine procedures have been completed).
The zoo’s nutrition staff have developed a schedule for implementing a centralized commissary at the Rock Creek Park facility and established performance measures to track progress. Collaboration between the research nutritionist and the clinical nutritionist was initiated quickly, and review of all animal diets and their entry into a database have progressed at a reasonable rate. Diet evaluation and documentation have been completed for mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians at the zoo; only the diets of invertebrates in the collection still need to be reviewed and entered into the database.
The zoo has made considerable progress in complying with federal statues to ensure animal welfare. The composition of the zoo’s institutional animal care and use committees (IACUCs) has been appropriately adjusted, semiannual inspections were performed in 2004, training for all IACUC members has been scheduled, and the appropriate documentation has been submitted to federal regulatory agencies.