Linda St. Thomas (202) 357-2627 ext. 108
Carolyn Martin (202) 673-0209
Peper Long (202) 673-0209
NAS: National Zoo Has Many Strengths;
Animals Received Appropriate Care
A National Academy of Sciences (NAS) report released today concluded that for the majority of the animal death cases it reviewed, the animals involved received appropriate care throughout their lifetimes at the National Zoo.
The Academy conducted an exhaustive scientific examination of medical records, internal memos and reports, keeper notes, and pathology and curatorial records. According to the NAS report, The committee concluded that in a majority of cases, the animal received appropriate care throughout its lifetime. In particular, the committee's evaluation of randomly sampled megavertebrate [large mammals] deaths at the Rock Creek Park facility revealed few questions about the appropriateness of these animals' care, suggesting that the publicized animal deaths were not indicative of a wider, undiscovered problem with animal care at the Rock Creek Park facility [National Zoo].
The report also found persuasive evidence the Zoo has many strengths, including the quality of its science programs and the dedication of its staff and called the Zoo's Conservation and Research Center (CRC) in Front Royal, Va., one of the world's most extensive and renowned programs in conservation-biology research.
David L. Evans, Under Secretary for Science at the Smithsonian, called the final report fair and accurate. We are gratified that the report confirms what we have been saying all alonganimals at the National Zoo are well cared for. Evans is serving as the interim director of the National Zoo.
We also appreciate the Academy's recognition of the staff's extraordinary efforts to correct concerns raised in the NAS 2004 interim report, Evans said.
For example, medical record-keeping concerns noted in the NAS February 2004 interim report have been corrected. Updates to animals' medical records are now signed and dated to create a complete and accurate medical history. In addition, the Department of Animal Health (veterinary staff) has reviewed and updated all preventive-medicine protocols and established a monthly schedule for examinations, tests and vaccinations. The staff also completed 100 percent of its scheduled preventive-medicine procedures in 2004. The NAS applauded the professionalism and actions of the veterinary staff in enacting the changes and recognizes the enormous effort that it took to make the changes in such an expeditious manner.
The Academy report also noted the Zoo's significant progress since the interim report in documenting animal diets, improving record keeping, implementing an integrated pest control program, and establishing performance measures for all staff.
The following are highlights of the Academy's final report on the National Zoo.
Review of Individual Animal Deaths
The panel found that a lack of communication and collaboration among all levels of staff was evident in the few instances of inadequate animal care.
NAS recommendation: Clarify specific information that must be included in all recordskeeper and curator, veterinary and nutrition records.
Zoo response: The Zoo has begun creating electronic keeper records, which will facilitate standardization of what information these records contain. Veterinary record-keeping issues were addressed after the 2004 NAS interim report, including a new procedure that requires all changes made to original medical records to be signed and dated.
NAS recommendation: The Zoo should continue efforts to make staff accountable for unprofessional actions.
Zoo response: During the past year, the keepers, curators, veterinarians and nutritionists have improved communications, and they meet regularly to discuss animal care issues. The Zoo is using staff performance measures to ensure accountability for unprofessional actions.
The Zoo's Conservation and Research Center, Front Royal, Va.
The NAS recognized the CRC as one of the world's most extensive and renowned programs in conservation biology research...its research programs distinguish the National Zoo from most other metropolitan zoos in the United States... (p. 61)
Animal care and management at CRCA random sampling of animal medical records showed inadequate preventive medical care for about 18 percent of the sample. However, the NAS committee noted the CRC preventive-medicine program was recently updated and is now appropriate.
NAS recommendation: Track completion of monthly scheduled preventive-medicine procedures; coordinate preventive-medicine protocols between CRC and Rock Creek.
Zoo response: Senior management will continue to track these procedures. Preventive-medicine protocols will be standardized to ensure better coordination between the Zoo's two facilities. Protocols will be completed by April 2005.
Animal welfare committeeThe NAS examined the CRC animal welfare committee's activities for the past five years and found the CRC committee reviewed all animal research protocols but did not conduct semi-annual inspections in a timely manner.
NAS recommendation: The Smithsonian and National Zoo should ensure the committee is fulfilling its responsibilities in a timely and complete manner.
Zoo response: The Zoo's deputy director will monitor the CRC committee to ensure it is completing all its responsibilities, including semi-annual inspections.
NutritionThe NAS determined the nutrition program and feeding guidelines for all species at CRC are appropriate, but hay storage facilities are inadequate.
NAS recommendation: Find adequate storage facilities for hay and ensure its quality control.
Zoo response: Funding has been earmarked in the 2005 maintenance budget to replace the hay barn's roof. The Zoo's new supervisory nutritionist will review hay production and quality control standards.
Record-keepingThe CRC and Rock Creek facilities use a mixture of electronic and paper records. The NAS found lapses of medical-record documentation at the CRC veterinary hospital.
NAS recommendation: Take immediate steps to ensure adequate and accurate medical records for CRC animals are completed. Change the CRC veterinary record-keeping system to parallel the Rock Creek facility.
Zoo response: Some records the NAS sought are in an old electronic format that is no longer accessible. Senior management will make certain that CRC record-keeping standards are updated and consistent with those at Rock Creek.
Pest controlThe NAS determined the CRC pest-control operation has not experienced any difficulties.
NAS recommendation: Develop and implement an animal-care training program for keeper staff.
Zoo response: Senior managers have begun a thorough assessment of the needs and goals of the animal care staff to best design and implement a keeper-training program that includes formal training as well as mentorships. The Zoo's written protocols for husbandry already exist for each species in the collection.
NAS recommendation: The management team directly responsible for overseeing the day-to-day care of the animal collection must undergo some form of management training.
Zoo response: In 2004, the Zoo established a training program for all of its supervisors and managers, which continues in 2005. Fifty supervisors have received the communication and management training provided by the Zoo; many of the curators now take courses offered by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association Management School.
Occupational Health and Safety
NAS recommendation: The Zoo's safety department should continue to shift its emphasis toward a more proactive, anticipatory role rather than reacting to events as they occur.
Zoo response: Safety training is part of new employee orientation. Safety committees conduct regular safety inspections throughout year and the Smithsonian's central safety office conducts formal annual inspectionsall in order to ensure compliance with safety regulations.
NAS recommendation: Safety department staff trained in occupational health and infectious disease should determine the testing and immunization requirements for Zoo employees based on a hazard and exposure assessment.
Zoo response: The Smithsonian's health unit, with input from the Zoo's animal care and management staff, determines the testing and immunization requirements for the Zoo's employees.
NAS recommendation: Correct the deficiencies in the health clinic facilities at the Rock Creek Park facility.
Zoo response: The health clinic is now handicapped-accessible, and some maintenance improvements have been made. The Zoo is currently developing its Master Plan, which will address all of the remaining improvements needed at the facility's health unit.