At the end of critical year, the Columbus Zoo faced the ns of 3 giraffes and also an oriental elephant calf end the expectancy of 6 weeks. The deaths were unconnected, and also zoo officials say an external review committee discovered there to be nothing they can have excellent to save the animals.

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But listener Judy Guion-Utsler had a various question for our Curious Cbus project: What happens to the zoo animals after they die?

“Everything that passes at the zoo has actually a finish post-mortem examination. A post-mortem is an animal equivalent of an autopsy," says Dr. Randy Junge, the Columbus Zoo vice president of animal health. "We obviously desire to recognize why the pet died.”

That’s whereby veterinarians prefer Dr. Chris Premanandan come in. He’s a professor of vet biosciences at The Ohio State University. In addition to faculty and also students in ~ the vet college, that carries out autopsies of pets from all over central Ohio.

“Obviously contrasted to a person autopsy facility, the requirements are different, especially in state of huge animals,” Premanandan says.

In the college of Veterinary medication autopsy room, there"s a magnet block of butcher knives placed to the wall and a buzzing blue light intended to attract any type of flies that might circle the animal’s corpses.


Credit Clare Roth /
Dr. Kris Premanandan is a pathology at Ohio State's university of veterinary Medicine, and performs autopsies on pets who passed away at the Columbus Zoo.

Premanandan is a pathologist, a sort of an illness detective because that animals. He spends fifty percent his time on live pets and half on autopsies choose those for the zoo.

“It’s a multi-step process, in i m sorry we perform the gross check of the animal," he says.

Next, they keep and process parts that the animals into slides to gain a closer look.

“So we look at things from an exterior perspective during an autopsy, then us take this tissues and also look at them microscopically,” Premanandan adds.

While the dead pets obviously cannot be saved, Premanandansays over there are large benefits come these type of post-mortems. They lug closure because that the animal’s owners and can help prevent future deaths in the very same herd. Plus, they add to the expertise base for experts like him.


Credit Grahm S. Jones / Columbus Zoo & Aquarium
Cami was one of the giraffes who passed away at the Columbus Zoo last year.

“We get better at treating diseases when we understand the conditions better," the says. "That’s kind of the feedback top top if we look in ~ enough details cases of a certain disease, let’s say a tumor, we can see the sample in which the spreads, the pattern in which that responds to therapy. That will assist future pets in regards to their treatment.”

That’s specifically important for exotic zoo varieties that veterinarians don’t check out as often as residential or agricultural animals.

“Many vets go their whole life without see the within of the elephant," Junge says. "So through the lose of this calf, we were maybe to execute a comprehensive dissection because that everybody to find out what us can around the elephant."

And the finding out isn’t confined come those in the room.

“In addition, we get lots of study requests. For this reason there’s an continuous research task looking at several of the contagious diseases that elephants," Junge says. "And lock requesting when possible to get tissue samples to try to usage for examining these diseases. So we try to fulfill all the study requests that we can when an pet passes.”


After samples are sent out to researchers, the zoo pets are sent to crematoriums. Officials from the zoo speak they bury the remains but don’t disclose the places publicly, as several of the pets are endangered and highly trafficked.

The zoo doesn’t hold memorial services for the pets that die, however Junge claims that doesn’t average they no mourned.

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“I knew this calf well prior to she was also born. And also then we observed her every work of she life up until the day the she died," Junge says. "So it’s around as close together you can get to one animal. It’s about as lot a component of your household as an animal can be.”

Have various other questions about animals in Columbus? Ask listed below for our Curious Cbus collection and we may investigate the answer.