Smithsonian National Zoological Park l Friends of the National Zoo



How Adopting Helps Animals

Since 1997, the Adopt a Species program has purchased a wide variety of equipment and supplies, such as scales for weighing animals and food, oxygen for physical exams, and medication for such animals as seals and sea lions, orangutans, elephants, and giant pandas.

A seal gets a dental check-up.

Animal-care services, such as the rearing of a newborn Przewalski's horse, were also funded by the program, and specialized equipment purchases have included heat pads for birds in outdoor enclosures, a new refrigerator/
freezer for the invertebrate animal health group, and medical supplies for the Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital.

The complex international effort to artificially inseminate Shanthi, one of three female Asian elephants at the National Zoo.

By far, the most extraordinary contribution from the Adopt a Species program was its support of an Asian elephant’s artificial insemination (AI) procedure in early 2000. The Adopt fund helped to underwrite the cost of the complex procedure, including veterinary staff, travel, equipment, ultrasonography, and the shipment of semen from a bull elephant in Toronto. After a few ineffective AI attempts, an ultrasound confirmed that Shanthi was indeed pregnant. After a 21-month gestation period, a male elephant, named Kandula, was born on November 25, 2001. The successful AI procedure was only the fourth in the U.S. and fifth worldwide.

The Adopt program has also funded enrichment materials for the giant pandas and lemurs, equipment repair, and even gadgets to help "baby-proof" the elephant enclosure. It also helped the Zoo to purchase a wide array of medical supplies to keep the Zoo's animals in tip-top shape. These included antibiotics, vaccines (TB, West Nile virus, rabies, and distemper), anesthetic and anesthetic reversal drugs, steroids, anti-inflammatory medications, flea treatments, and various dermatological treatments. It also has paid for radiology film, a pocket microscope, surgical supplies, oxygen for animal anesthetic and recovery, syringes and tubes, teeth-cleaning supplies, and incubator repairs.

Adopt a Species contributions make a difference for endangered animals in a variety of other ways:

Repopulating Oryxes in Tunisia

scimitar-horned oryx

Most recently, the Adopt a Species program underwrote the cost of transporting one of the Zoo’s scimitar-horned oryx to Tunisia. Once abundant in that region, the scimitar-horned oryx is now extinct in the wild. The National Zoo, as a member of the Species Survival Plan (SSP), works closely with an international network of partners to reintroduce the scimitar-horned oryx to its native habitat. The addition of the Zoo's oryx was valuable both in terms of numbers and genetic diversity, fundamental components for establishing a viable population for the future.


A surgeon stabilizes the fishing cat's fractured leg.

Mending a Fishing Cat's Fracture

To diagnose a fishing cat's lame leg, Zoo vets anesthetized him for a full medical work-up and radiographs. An x-ray showed he had a fractured humerus - the long bone between the shoulder and the elbow - in two places. Zoo vets with the help of a surgeon inserted metal pins into the bone to stabilize the fractured leg. The fishing cat's prognosis is excellent. His bone has healed nicely, and he will have full use of the leg.

The Adopt Fund paid for the radiology supplies for the cat, surgical fracture pins, the anesthetic, including oxygen and endotracheal tubes, and antibiotics.

Giant Panda Health Care

giant pandas at the Zoo

It's important to regularly monitor the general and reproductive health of the Zoo's two giant pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, so that vet staff can diagnose, treat, and study these endangered animals. Zoo vets take routine blood samples, check blood pressure, vaccinate, conduct ultrasound exams, take radiographs, palpate them, and do close visual exams, all while the pandas are awake in their training cage. Monthly blood samples are taken from each panda. Zoo vets also conduct ultrasound exams of female Mei Xiang at least monthly, and more frequently during the summer and fall, to assess her reproductive status. In addition, every one to two years Zoo vets examine Tian Tian under anesthesia, permitting a more thorough physical exam, including a dental exam and other procedures. Donations from Adopt supporters underwrote the expenses of syringes and tubes for blood collection for the pandas, radiology and ultrasound supplies, and occasional anesthetics.

Your participation in the Adopt program truly makes a difference!


""Adopt today!

Photos by Jessie Cohen/NZP