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Saturday, February 23 , 2019, 12:21 pm | Fair 57º


Exhibit of Animal X-Rays on View at Santa Barbara Zoo’s Volentine Gallery

Xray animal
An X-ray of a golden lion tamarin with an oxygen mask is part of the "Animals ... Inside Out" art exhibit on view at the Volentine Family Gallery in the Santa Barbara Zoo's Discovery Pavilion through June 29. The images are for sale. (Santa Barbara Zoo photo)

When the Santa Barbara Zoo purchased a new portable X-ray system in 2013, the staff knew the resulting images would aid in diagnoses and medical assessments of the zoo’s more than 500 animals. What they couldn’t know is that the images would be intriguing beyond their medical use, and even artistically beautiful.

“Animals … Inside Out,” an art exhibit which features 28 radiographs (C-rays) taken of the zoo’s animal residents, is now on view at the Volentine Family Gallery in the zoo’s Discovery Pavilion through June 29.

The images are for sale, and prices range from $60 to $135. All proceeds benefit the zoo.

This exhibit is part of an ongoing series of nature-themed exhibits displayed in the gallery throughout the year, and is free to view with zoo admission. Printed on paper, the majority of the works are 11 inches by 14 inches or 8 inches by 10 inches, with a few larger, including one at 14 inches by 16 inches. The X-rays were taken primarily in 2014, some during routine annual exams, but others to aid in diagnoses or treatment of ailments.

“Animals … Inside Out” includes a view of the forefoot of African lion gingerbread, the head and neck of a Chilean flamingo, the body of a three-banded armadillo, a skull of giant anteater Ridley, the body of a Western chuckwalla, a wing of an endangered California condor, and the foot of an American brown pelican, among others. The image showing the lungs of Chief, the zoo’s Burmese python, is one of 10 separate X-rays needed to radiograph his 9-foot-long body. The wee body of milky tree frog shows a fractured right femur (leg), and the kidney stones of an Asian small-clawed otter look like tiny cauliflowers.

Ling, the zoo’s Chinese alligator, had lesions on the bottom of her foot, but the X-ray reveals there are no issues with her foot bones. The body of rosy boa appears to be surrounded by smoke — actually, the sack used to restrain the snake to avoid using anesthesia. An oxygen mask is revealed on a young golden lion tamarin born in July 2014. An image of the foot of a snow leopard shows its particularly furry details.

“The rosy boa image is one of my favorites, as it shows the delicate inner structure of an animal that often inspires a ‘yuck’ reaction in people,” said Wendy Campbell of the zoo’s Marketing Department, who serves on the Gallery Exhibits Committee. “I think snakes are so cool, and hope that by seeing its bones, others might see their beauty the way I do.”

The endotracheal (breathing) tube, used to assist with an animal’s breathing while it is anesthetized, is visible in an image of one of the zoo’s more recent residents, a laughing Kookaburra. It was taken during the bird’s quarantine exam, which is standard procedure for every new resident, in addition to the annual medical exams performed for each of the zoo’s more than 500 animals.

“This exhibit gives our guests a unique opportunity to view what is usually only seen by veterinary staff, and become inspired in a new way about the beauty of wild animals,” Campbell said.

The images were taken by a Vet Rocket X1 portable digital radiograph system, with a Canon wireless Digital Radiograph detector, purchased by the zoo with funds donated by the Henry Bull, Mericos and Hind foundations, and Citrix Online.

— Julia McHugh is the director of public relations for the Santa Barbara Zoo.


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