African American Military History Museum Hattiesburg Zoo Hattiesburg Saenger

All Out of Sorts

By: Jessica Downs, Animal Keeper
published Fri February 01, 2013 All Out of Sorts

Sometimes, a keeper will find that one of the animals in their care has accidentally ingested something that was not intended for consumption. In the best case scenario, this would only entail mild stomach upset. Worst case scenario could prove fatal. One of a keeper’s jobs is to make sure that all exhibits are free of trash and debris that may pose as a temptation to an animal. The keepers must make sure all plants in and around the exhibits are non-toxic and take note of any that have been eaten or chewed on.

Occasionally, something must be updated, repaired or replaced in an exhibit. This may cause a bit of disruption from the normal everyday routine and something could be overlooked. During keeper chats, we discuss the importance of strict diets and what that particular animal would eat in its native habitat.

Sunday morning, “Steve” (our male llama), was acting “out of sorts”.  The keeper noticed that he was scratching at his stomach, rolling around and straining to defecate. The vet was called and it was determined that a plant was the culprit. The pool in his exhibit is being redone and therefore the electric fence that keeps the animals out of plants around the perimeter was not in working order. The plant was not poisonous but was labeled as to cause mild stomach upset if ingested. He would normally not have access to this plant; therefore it was an easy oversight. He was treated with a medicine that absorbs toxins and lets it pass naturally. However, he was not fond of the process. Normally, he is not a “spitter”, but on that day the keeper, as well as the vet, were spit on.Steve is now back to his normal, inquisitive self.


I bring this to your attention for the simple fact that our animals have strict diets that must be enforced and we wish for our guests to want the best health for our zoo friends as well. So, thank you to all who help us watch out for our animals and their well being!