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Research Summary

The Epi-Zoo Program

The Ohio State University Department of Veterinary Preventive Medicine and the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo in partnership formed the Epi-Zoo Program and hired Dr. Pam Dennis to lead research that will investigate the relationships between animal management, disease, and the environment. Information gained through this research is instrumental in improving the health and welfare of zoo animals and free-ranging animal populations. The goal of this collaboration is to link a wide range of expertise available at OSU to the considerable resources, expertise, and opportunities available around the world through the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo. The Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, as a member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), is part of an integrated network of accredited institutions dedicated to excellence in animal care and welfare, conservation, education, and research. The mission of the Epi-Zoo Program is to assess the health, disease and environment of captive and free-ranging wildlife populations, to improve and monitor the health and well-being of these populations, and to provide research, education and training opportunities in wildlife health. There is vast research potential through this collaborative effort as the questions involving veterinary wildlife epidemiology are never-ending. Recognizing that most emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic, and that many of them have emerged at the human-wildlife interface (eg Ebola virus, SARS, West Nile virus in the United States, monkeypox), the Epi-Zoo Program creates a unique avenue to foster research in emerging infectious diseases. In addition, the Program expands the opportunity for research in comparative medicine, particularly in the area of chronic diseases and non-infectious diseases, many of which are seen in both humans and captive wild species (eg hemochromatosis, cardiovascular disease, different neoplasias). The zoo, the University students and faculty, as well as the public will benefit as the program develops.

Current projects include:

  • Avian influenza surveillance in Ohio zoos;
  • disease surveillance in Cleveland Metroparks white-tailed deer herds;
  • insulin resistance as a risk factor in reproductive acyclicity in African elephants;
  • Effects of dietary resistant starch on cardiovascular parameters, colon health and the occurrence of regurgitation and reingestion in captive gorillas;
  • hepatocellular cholestasis in Geoffroyi's tamarins; investigation of the relationship between body condition and the skewed natal sex ratio in captive black rhinoceros;
  • descriptive epidemiology of captive slenderhorn gazelle and gerenuk in the United States;
  • diabetes in captive tamandua