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Tuesday, March 26 , 2019, 2:35 am | Fair 48º


Young Dr. Doolittles Examine Medical Procedures at Jr. Veterinarian Camp

Santa Barbara Zoo offers science-based summer programs

Kids in Jr. Veterinarian Zoo Camp watch as Dr. Julie Barnes, right, and bird keeper Carol Hunsperger examine a tawny frogmouth in the Santa Barbara Zoo Animal Hospital.
Kids in Jr. Veterinarian Zoo Camp watch as Dr. Julie Barnes, right, and bird keeper Carol Hunsperger examine a tawny frogmouth in the Santa Barbara Zoo Animal Hospital. (Santa Barbara Zoo)

Thirty local kids got a behind-the-scenes look at the life of an exotic-animal veterinarian last week during the Santa Barbara Zoo’s Jr. Veterinarian Camp.

Jr. Veterinarian is one of several specialty camps the zoo debuted last summer that offer science-based experiences for budding young vets, biologists, naturalists and zookeepers.

During Jr. Veterinarian week, campers practiced actual medical techniques such as giving injections and suturing — not on actual animals, but on oranges, bananas and hotdogs.

The campers checked their own temperatures and heart rates, using equipment in the animal hospital, and learned how to bandage paws, tails and heads on large stuffed animals.

They examined X-rays of various zoo animals were examined, and watched balloons filled up as if they were IVs.

Highlights of the experience included performing a dissection on squid and fish, and observing a medical exam of a tawny frogmouth, a large Australian bird, performed by Dr. Julie Barnes.

“The kids loved the hands-on learning,” said Wyatt Newman, zoo educator. “Campers would diligently try to suture an orange, after watching Dr. Barnes, who has so much experience. They thought that was really cool.”

The last day of the week-long camp was a practicum relay, in which teams competed in contests of the skills learned during the week.

“The campers got to meet veterinary staff and get a good sense of what happens in an animal hospital, especially at a zoo,” Wyatt said. “It was fun and educational at the same time.”

All specialty camps are full-day camps and offered during specific weeks over the summer. Many have limited availability; the remaining two sessions of Jr. Veterinarian are full.

Upcoming Zoo Camps with availability include:

Backyard Biologist (July 31-Aug. 4.): Campers discover how to identify frog calls, go birdwatching, and learn about field biology, then put the skills to use during an overnight stay at the zoo. Ages 6-12.

Scales and Tails (July 31-Aug. 4): Campers build a temporary exhibit in Eeeww! with their choice of cool creepy crawlers like reptiles, snakes, bugs and spiders. Ages 8-12.

Pet Ready (July 24-28 and Aug. 7-11): Are the kids pleading for a puppy? Clamoring for a cat? Here campers find out just what it takes to care for a pet, including nutritional needs, vet care, training, and lots of cleaning up. Ages 6 to 12.

Traditional Zoo Camp (Offered weekly through Aug. 18): This award-winning camp is targeted toward younger children from ages 3-8, and offers both full-day and half-day sessions.

Both the traditional and specialty camps have optional extended hours, from 7:30-9 a.m. and 3:30-4:30 p.m., and offer a hot lunch. For registration and more information, visit www.sbzoo.org/learn/zoo-camp/.

— Julia McHugh for Santa Barbara Zoo.


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