Thrill of Birth, Agony of Loss

Even after two decades at the zoo’s helm, I’m continually impressed by our animal care team’s commitment to wildlife and the living creatures who reside here. They’re some of the most passionate, dedicated and selfless people I’ve ever known.

Take, for instance, our veterinarians who provided intense, round-the-clock medical treatment to the Sichuan takin born last Thursday. The calf became ill over the weekend. The vets would not rest; they devoted all their energy to treating the calf to reduce fever and infection. Unfortunately, their heroic efforts proved unsuccessful and we lost the calf.

We all know logically that loss is a part of life, but that doesn’t lessen its emotional toll. Every zookeeper, animal care manager, curator and vet (as well as staff and volunteers committed to serving wildlife in hands-off roles) feels each loss immensely. Working closely with animals cultivates deep emotional bonds and a tremendous sense of responsibility. Each animal feels like a member of the family.

The zoo’s takin herd, pictured above in early 2013, includes two adult females, two 1-year male kids and an adult male (not shown).

This weekend was a challenging one for our zoo family. We frequently celebrate animals and the thrill of new life at the zoo. We don’t recognize as often how the loss of animals impacts their human caregivers.

I’d like to commend and thank all the members of our zoo team who give so much of themselves every day. Their dedication is extraordinary. They work around the clock when necessary. They aren’t daunted by blizzards, floods or polar vortexes. Nothing stops them from providing care for the animals. Even during a moment of loss that sort of perseverance is uplifting.

Kevin Bell


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