July 20th 2013 | Veterinarian

Murray E. Fowler

The first patient that Dr. Murray Fowler treated as a veterinarian was a camel, and that was on the set of a movie called The Ten Commandments which was directed by the famous C.B. DeMille.
© Caravette Productions Ltd.

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My name is Murray Fowler. And actually I was born in Glendale on Whidbey Island in Washington a few years ago, and grew up essentially in the Salt Lake Valley in Utah.

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And what’s your birthday?

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I was born on July 17th, 1928. Now you’ve had a pretty unusual childhood by today’s standards.

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Could you tell us a little bit about what your childhood was like?

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As I said, I was raised in the Salt Lake Valley on a small farm. And at the time it was a very poor farm, and we were poor people. We went to the area first to live in a tent because the home that we eventually acquired was an adobe shack that needed a roof on it. So we did the things that were necessary to get that house in order. I was a small child at the time, but I participated in this and helped my mother do canning in a tense situation because this was during the depression and we had to provide for ourselves, and that’s the reason that we went to the farm, my folks went to the farm, is so that they could supply for food. And although we didn’t have money, we had plenty to eat. And my father was a pharmacist, who worked in Salt Lake City at a pharmacy, and traveled away from the house a good deal. So that essentially it was my older brother and my mother and I that did the farm work over the period of years.

00:02:07 - 00:03:29

We started out farming with horses so that I knew how to manage them. First, I rode the cultivating horse. We planted trees, we had an orchard, primarily peaches and apricots, and we graduated eventually to a tractor, but it wasn’t until I was probably out of the house that we had a good tractor. We did not have electricity in the home when we first went there, neither did we have running water in the house. We had to carry water from a ditch that was carrying irrigation water through our property to the house. And it wasn’t until I was 15 years old that we had indoor plumbing in the home. But my brothers and sisters, we worked hard, we enjoyed life, we didn’t have computers to play with as that didn’t come along for quite a few years but we made due. I learned to play a horsey, and I had my own horse by the time I was maybe 12 years old.

00:03:32 - 00:04:47

And I was doing major farm work at age 12, I would go out and mow hay all day long. I learned actually to drive an old pickup truck when I was about eight years old, I had to put blocks on the pedals of the car. So I just don’t even remember when I couldn’t drive one way or another. So wonderful experiences. We lived on a dirt road for many years, rode a bus to school in a little town called Draper, Utah. That was elementary school and junior high school. Later on I went to a high school in Sandy, Utah called Jordan High School. This was toward the end of World War II, it’s during World War II, actually, and we were in a situation where I felt that I needed to prepare to go into the service.

00:04:47 - 00:06:31

And so most of my high school years, I spent working in an auto mechanic shop and an airplane engine shop, so that I had tremendous experiences with mechanics, my brother was by then a machinist, and so he had that background. I learned from him, and learned how to do things, to accomplish things. And I guess one of the things that was very important to me in my growing up years, was the fact that my mother was the hardest working person that I have ever known. She was a very small woman, very dedicated to our family, but she sometimes said the farm was the thing that kept her going, but the farm also was one of her unhappy experiences because there was never enough water to irrigate crops, it was a burdensome thing, but my mother taught me something that stayed with me throughout my life, and that’s how to work. At one occasion, it was my responsibility to milk the cows night and morning. And one morning she called me to get up and go to see to the milking. And I didn’t respond. Instead of saying, “Get up, you lazy lop.” She told me to…

00:06:32 - 00:07:16

She didn’t say anything, she just went and milked the cows. That was the first time that that ever happened, and it didn’t happen again. And it was necessary for us to spread manure on our fields where we had cows. And so we had a manure pile that in the spring of the year, we spread on the fields, and she would get out there and work with me on that. So that I was very fortunate in having that experience. I was also helping other farmers in the area when they needed a seasonal help for harvesting crops and this sort of thing. You mentioned the horses, that you had your own horse.

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How did you learn about animals and when did you kind of feel that strong connection to them?

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Can’t say that I remember when I felt that connection, we had farm animals, we had dogs and cats, we had poultry, in fact, we had chickens as one of the major products that we had. We raised turkeys for a period of time. And so I just essentially grew up with animals. I had a respect for them, I sometimes swore at them. In fact, I developed a bad habit of swearing that I had to overcome actually when I went into the Navy. But animals can be very exasperating, but it was also a source of enjoyment with the horses, I had several ones, I started working with the draft horses early on. And when I was asked to attend a meeting in Columbia, Missouri, the veterinary school there, they decided that they wanted to take me for a ride with their mascots, which happened to be a team of mules.

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And they said, “Would you like to go for a ride around town?

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We’ve got a wagon and these mules.” And so I said, sure. They hitched up the horses and hitched up the wagon that was in a barn and we went for a ride. And when they got back, they couldn’t put the wagon back in the barn. And they tried for several goes at it, ultimately, I said, “You wanna let me try?” And I put it right in because I knew how to do it. And then he looked at me rather askance and said, “You’ve done that before,” and I had. But all of these experiences were just part and parcel of living in that day in time and in that place.

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Were there any animals that you disliked?

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Well, not really. I didn’t like snakes because we had snakes on the farm, and I learned of this phobia that I had of snakes because in the haying process or bringing hay in, we would make little stacks of hay, we’d cut it and rake it into piles, and then we would toss those piles onto a wagon. And my job as a small youngster was to tramp the hay. And that meant that I would stand up there and move the hay around as they threw it up. And often there would be a common old, what we would call a gopher snake, here we called them blow snakes. They would be under these little shocks of hay, and they would find them. And they soon found that I was afraid of snakes, then they enhanced that by tossing that snake up onto the rack of hay, and seeing me jump off the wagon because of my fear of snakes.

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We’re jumping ahead just a bit here, because you’ve opened the door, did you, as a veterinarian overcome this fear?

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Absolutely, I had to, I was shamed into it by my children who like snakes. And as a result of my own phobia, I knew that I was going to have to make sure that my children didn’t experience the same thing. Because I don’t believe you’re born with a fear of snakes, I believe it’s a learned response. And so all of my children handled snakes. I’ve got pictures subsequently of my small children playing on the lawn with a boa, I’ve watched them all the time because some of them were pretty good sized. But I have one picture of a daughter with a snake that’s touching its tongue to her nose. And they would take snakes to show and tell. I never handled them at that point in time, but finally I was shamed into learning how to handle them.

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And I did, I learned as much as I could about snakes and then forced myself to handle them to the point where I could handle any snake eventually. So now you’re growing up on the farm, you have exposure to domestic animals.

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Were you ever exposed to a zoo when you were growing up or to a circus when you were growing up or different types of animals?

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I don’t ever recall going to a circus. We didn’t have money to do that sort of thing as a rule. I hunted as a youngster with my brother and my father. We spent time with animals, there were squirrels of various in the sundry sorts, coyotes, there were mountain lions in the area, not too far from where we lived. I had the opportunity to interact with wild animals. I was in forestry 4-H clubs, so my camping experience was with the 4-H program. And so I guess that was my experience with wild animals. And it was all pretty good.

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Well, when did you decide then that you wanted to work with animals and become a veterinarian?

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Well, I didn’t actually decide that until I was in the Navy at the tail end of World War II. And I was in the medical corps, in the hospital corps of the Navy. And I liked medicine, but I didn’t particularly like human medicine, and I was a farm boy, in fact, originally I wanted to be a farmer. I was proud of the fact that I liked farming, but there was no hope for me because we didn’t have enough properties, support, or family, really, and so I decided, well, I think I’ll like to be a veterinarian. So that’s how I made that choice.

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And once you made the choice, did you start applying to different places or you knew where you wanted to go?

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How did you make that entry?

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Well, I was still a farm boy and the Utah State Agricultural College, which it was called then, beckoned me, and I was able to get in there, I couldn’t have done that with the grades that I have out of high school at this present time because I wasn’t college material. But at that time I was able to get in there, and I had also matured a little bit and learned how to apply myself, so I started out in animal husbandry at that school, which was essentially a pre-vet program. I went on then to get accepted to Iowa State University, was called Iowa State College at that time. And I decided that at that point in time that I wanted to work with horses. And so I went through the school with that in mind and went into a horse practice when I completed the work. And that’s where I came in contact with various in the sundry television stars, movie stars, and so forth. And I’m gonna ask you about that in a second.

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So your degree is in veterinary medicine?

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Doctor of veterinary medicine.

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And you have any other degrees?

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Not really, I have some specialty certifications, which came along later on after I got into the profession.

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And those are what?

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I’m a diplomate of the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, I’m a diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine, and the American Board of Veterinary Toxicology because I had a strong interest in poisonous plants.

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Now, I think what you were referring to was in 1955, you spent three years in the horse practice in Southern California?

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What was the name of the company you work for?

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What kinds of jobs did you do?

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What was animal care like at the time?

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And you mentioned met some interesting people. Well, the company was a partnership Daikin and AW. They were veterinarians that worked out of the San Fernando valley. And that’s just across a small bunch of hills from Hollywood, California. And they did movie and television work as well. When movies were being filmed, that required animals to appear dead, they had to have somebody that was a veterinarian on the scene to make sure that the animals were cared for properly. And the practice was primarily horses. So it was a farm practice, it wasn’t a racetrack practice, it was a brood mare practice.

00:17:49 - 00:19:12

And we were all over Southern California dealing with horses so that I got a pretty good foundation there. I got to know certain people like Gene Autry. In fact, I had known Gene Autry because I knew I wanted to come to California, and he was giving a performance actually in Des Moines, Iowa. And I went to that and went behind the scenes and met him there, and he invited me to visit him in the San Fernando valley. And so he and Roy Rogers and Dale Robertson and Montie Montana became a good friend of mine. Montie Montana is a roper, trick roper. And I would actually go to his performances on the weekends and kind of help him manage his horses. And I had somewhat thought, I’d like to be a roper, in fact, I had done some calf roping while I was in college and I learned how to trick rope, in fact, I was a performer in a rodeo that I and a friend managed in the school at that time.

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And so I found out that these people were human, they had likes and dislikes, J SIRVA Heels, who was Tonto, was also a client. And at that point in time, they were not just clients, they were friends. So we got well acquainted and I enjoyed those people.

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Where the stars more approachable then than they might be today?

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Do you have any- No, I kind of tend to think that the real pros, the real good people are approachable, it’s the wannabes that don’t necessarily… They’re a little bit more egotistical. But later on, I got very well acquainted with Betty White, a dear friend of mine, and other people are just good people. Now, these names that you’re mentioning are quite well-known. You also worked with a very well known director, Cecil B. DeMille.

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What did you do for him?

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And how did you even meet the guy?

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And what’s your attitude about animals being used in movies?

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Well, I saw a lot of animals being used in movies and they were well cared for, they’re valuable animals. You take a horse, like a falling horse where you see them get shot or something like that. And they seemingly take bad spills, but those are highly trained animals and they commanded better salaries, if you will, than a lot of the starlets because they were well-trained and they were cued. That caused some problems sometimes because at one situation that I was at, a wrangler wanting to impress one of the starlets, and so he asked her if she would like to take a ride on a horse. And he put her up on a horse, and she knew enough about riding two neck rein a horse, to change the direction of it. And unfortunately she did it, the Wrangler had put her up on a falling horse, and that is the cue for an animal to fall in a certain direction. And so that when she neck reined the horse, it went down and she wasn’t trained to go down like the wranglers where the movie stars. And so she was kinda hurt as a result of that.

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But on the ranch, these animals were fed properly because they were valuable animals. And they’re a lot of them, they’re trained, you can train any animal to be attainment, have to work on a movie set. And I admire the people that spend the time, and you don’t have to abuse the animal to train it, there were people who did abuse animals, we’re aware that, but the real good ones didn’t use those techniques.

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So how did you come into contact with Cecil B. DeMille?

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Well, when you get out of veterinary schools, you have to take state board examinations. And at that time it was a couple of months after you took the examination before you found out what the results were. And so during the time that I was waiting for that, I helped the other members of the practice do their things. But the first patient that I treated as a veterinarian was a camel, and that was on the set of a movie called “The Ten Commandments,” which C.B. DeMille directed and produced and did everything else. But C.B. DeMille was also a client of a practice. And so he had a horse ranch, he enjoyed that experience. And so we would go to his ranch and take care of his horses too. And that’s how I got to know him.

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I didn’t know him very well, but I was acquainted with him as a man, I wasn’t really privy to what his situation is with the directorship and all these sorts of things, but as a person, he was a good person. As is a little aside, did you happen to work on “The Greatest Show on Earth?” No, I didn’t. I worked on a lot of other shows with some people like Audie Murphy, and found him to be a very personable individual. As you may know, he was a World War II hero, probably the most decorated soldier in World War II, but he was kind of a humble guy, and he did his own stunt work.

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And so the other thing that I got to appreciate in the movie industry was the editing process, because I was part and parcel of a lot of different scenes, if you will, and it looked like, how can that be put together?

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On one particular film, I was asked to take four cattle steers up to Mojave Desert and anesthetize them in certain places on the desert to appear well eventually to be dead animals all over the place from the drought, or from a disease that was going through the area. And so I would immobilize and anesthetize a steer and put it in this place. And then the cameraman would take pictures from different points of view, seeing maybe two or three animals down at the most, and when it came out in the movie, this was called “The Rainmaker,” the original Burt Lancaster, “The Rainmaker,” and there were dead cattle all over the desert from four animals. So again, I found out that the way some of those animals are treated is the result of having to spend a lot of hours recovering an animal from anesthesia on the desert when they started to bloat and other things that can occur when it’s too hot and everything else goes along with it, but we were there to try and… We didn’t lose any animals during that period of time.

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And no I’m gonna have to go back now to Netflix and get these movies (indistinct) When you were working with the horses, did they help you in any way to understand the treatment of other animals and that may have helped form a direction your career was going in?

00:27:19 - 00:29:09

Well, each experience working with an animal added to the microchip that is part and parcel of you. And certainly I’m a very strong proponent of the concept that there is one medicine, literally, both human and animal medicine. And so what I knew about horses put me in good stead for working with other species. We didn’t do just horses, we also did some farm work with cattle and certainly over a period of years, those three years that I was in private practice, we dealt with other animals used in the movie and television industry with chimpanzees. Debra Paget had a little baby, 40-pound chimp that a bit a toe off of her child. And she asked the practice to take the teeth, the fighting teeth out of this animal. And so I did this and that was an experience that it kind of whetted my appetite for working with animals because the medicines that we use for anesthesia at that point in time, were things like phenobarbital tablets, which is a human sedative. And so I took a pill and put it in a piece of banana and gave it to the chimp, and the chimp took the piece of banana and just chomped it down pretty well.

00:29:09 - 00:30:39

And then while we were watching, I saw its lips start to move and it spit out the pill. And at that point in time, I gained an appreciation for the strength of the 40-pound chimpanzee, because eventually I had somebody, this was a fairly tame chimp, do a full Nelson wrestling hold on this chimp. And I had a person on each arm and each leg, and these were essentially five adults holding onto this animal, and the animal was moving around still, but I was ultimately able to give an intravenous injection and anesthetize that animal. So strength, agility, movement, quickness of movement, all these things I learned and added to the repertoire of my experience that would occur later on. Now you started your own practice in ’55, but what made you decide, “I wanna work on my own?” No, I never did my (clears throat) own practice. I worked for Daikin and Aw, and then I went directly to the university. What made you decide that I didn’t wanna continue working in this kind of practice. Practice situation.

00:30:44 - 00:31:33

When I started the university, I admired the people that were my professors, and people that I worked with. And I had had some experience in my church of doing some teaching. And so I enjoyed teaching and I decided I want to become a teacher. And so an opportunity arose where there was an opening for a horse surgeon at the university of California, at Davis, in the veterinary school there. And I applied and was accepted. And that’s how I got into university situation, but it was 10 or 12 years later before I started working with wild animals.

00:31:33 - 00:31:36

So you’re primarily there for horse medicine?

00:31:36 - 00:31:41

Horse medicine, essentially large animal medicine, because we also did cattle and sheep.

00:31:41 - 00:31:44

And how long did you stay at the university doing this teaching?

00:31:45 - 00:31:56

Well, throughout the rest of my career, I was associated with the University of California, which was what, 40 years, something like that.

00:31:56 - 00:31:59

But you were doing more things on than just teaching horse medicine?

00:32:01 - 00:32:55

Initially no, I taught a lot of different courses. For instance, I taught the introduction to large animals surgery course, the laboratory phase of it. I taught what we call a therapeutics or pharmacology course for clinical teaching, or clinical use of various drugs. I taught poisons plants, and I did all the restraint teaching for all kinds of large animals. And that was a very important precursor to my ultimate career because I knew how to use ropes, I knew how to use restraint, physical restraint, we would call it.

00:32:56 - 00:33:07

When then in your university teaching, did you start to develop this program and zoological medicine at the university?

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And how did that come about that they would ask you to do that?

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Or why did you decide it needed to be done?

00:33:14 - 00:35:11

(chuckles) Well, that’s an interesting situation because everybody that looks out of a veterinarian that ultimately works in a zoo said, “How did you get there?” And I can say really serendipitously. But I also would point out that I was prepared. When I went to the university to be on the faculty, I told myself that I wanted to maintain the scholarship, so I audited classes at the university and every one of them were involved with animals. I took mammalogy, I took ornithology, I took evolution, wildlife biology, every wildlife course over the course of years, I audited and took tests, I didn’t do it for credit because a faculty person couldn’t do that, but I had done that. And also during that same period of time, I had been working in the scout program, and I was interested in nature. I had done a minor in botany at our state university, and so I was just naturally inclined for natural history type things. And so I taught that I taught survival to boy scouts and spent a lot of time in the back country with them. So that over the course of the years, I was really prepared to enter the field of wildlife medicine because I had the medicine background, but also the biology.

00:35:11 - 00:36:49

And that’s one of the things that I think may be lacking as far as modern zoo veterinarians is they have just focused right down the line on medicine and neglected the biology. And I think that was important. But the way I really ended up is that the dean of the veterinary school at the time, after I’d been there about 10 years, decided that he wanted to have a wildlife person on the faculty. There wasn’t a wildlife veterinarian on any faculty anywhere in the world at that time. And he put up notices saying, “Hey, apply for this position.” Two years, not an applicant, and he was very frustrated at this. Well, nowadays, if you put out that same notification, you’d get 200 applications, but he didn’t get any. One day he was bemoaning this in essentially a faculty meeting that he couldn’t get anybody to apply, ’cause there were no people trained to do it. And after listening to him for a minute or two, I said, “Well, why don’t you let me do it?” And he tossed the ball and it was all uphill or downhill, whichever you wanna call it from then on.

00:36:50 - 00:36:56

So that’s how we got into that serendipitously. Be careful what you ask for you might just get it. (laughs) Yeah.

00:36:57 - 00:37:02

But how important would you say this program was to the development of animal medicine?

00:37:06 - 00:37:44

Well, it was the first, anywhere in the world, it was needed, and it was the only one for about 10 years. And then it started to be copied, if you will, in other places and other times, and eventually now almost every veterinary school has a person who is involved with wildlife medicine in one form or another, but it was a pioneer situation.

00:37:47 - 00:37:52

Were there students who took this pioneering class that then went on to work in zoos?

00:37:53 - 00:38:59

Well, I can tell it this way, at one early annual meeting of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, we asked everybody that has been influenced by the program at Davis to come for a picture. One third of the people that were there had experienced either as a student or as a resident. We didn’t have interns at Davis, but we had visiting students, people that came from other schools to visit our program. So there are a lot of them. And even today, many of the programs, both at institutions like universities or in zoos had experienced Davis. And one of the people that was most prominent in that was Mitch Bush was a student of mine in the early years.

00:39:01 - 00:39:08

How did you expose your students to the exotic for the zoo medicine?

00:39:08 - 00:39:57

Well, two ways, we set up a program, a clinic, if you will, in the veterinary school hospital for wild animals, and we took in all kinds of animals, both birds, reptiles, and mammals. And secondly, we had courses that we taught, these were outside the regular classroom hours, so they were usually at seven o’clock in the morning or something like that. And we developed several courses like that. And very early on, in fact, initially, I started working with the Sacramento Zoo and it became the laboratory for our program in zoological medicine. And so we would take students there.

00:39:58 - 00:40:01

You approached them, the students?

00:40:02 - 00:40:46

Yeah, but all these things kind of build because over the years, as a horse person, because people found out that I was willing to deal with any kind of an animal that people from the zoo would bring animals to the hospital, or occasionally they would ask us to go over there. A fellow by the name of Bill Steinmetz, who had a small animal practice near to the zoo, did emergency work with the people there, Hank Spencer was the superintendent of the facility. And he would ask us to consult on wild animals or me.

00:40:46 - 00:40:49

And this was before you had developed this class?

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00:40:52 - 00:40:57

Were there important discoveries that you made while doing this class in zoo medicine?

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Were there things that surprised you the most, that you didn’t realize about these exotic animals?

00:41:06 - 00:42:11

That’s an interesting question. It was essentially new to me, but I had the habitude if you will, or the desire to be concerned about all species of animals, and I was not afraid to try. And so I just jumped in and did what needed to be done. I applied what I knew in general medicine. And this is one of the reasons why I think it’s important for there just to be one medicine, because the knowledge of anatomy, and a little bit of physiology and biology becomes important, but basically medicine is medicine. And so learning how to handle the animals was perhaps the most important thing that I had to learn myself. And I became fairly proficient in doing that.

00:42:12 - 00:42:18

Were you able to transfer restraint that you had learned for horses and cows to exotics?

00:42:18 - 00:42:54

Absolutely. Principles, primarily of minimizing stress, knowing how much force to apply, how to use ropes, how to use nets, all of these things were adapted from similar situations in other animals. Well, it’s interesting that we’re talking about different people that you’ve have brought into the field of medicine.

00:42:54 - 00:43:02

How does it feel to be the called the father of zoological medicine as you’ve been called before?

00:43:03 - 00:44:34

Well, thank you. Some people call me the grandfather, but that’s only because I are one. But nothing but pride in being a part of this process. And that is just a part. And I can look at anyone of the people that have gone through my program or I’ve been associated with, every one of them knows something about zoological medicine that I don’t know. But I have the privilege of having it overview, and that overview has allowed me to sit back and appreciate the contributions of everybody. And I go to a meeting now and some of the things I can’t even understand, but I appreciate what went on before, and sometimes the present students don’t know what went on before. And if I can help them appreciate that a little bit more, that’s my plus.

00:44:34 - 00:44:36

Do you think that’s what makes you a good teacher?

00:44:37 - 00:45:52

Well, I would assume so. I guess it’s an interesting situation. I have a difficulty remembering names, and my mother used to tell me that you don’t remember names because you don’t like people. And I take exception to that because I do like people, I’ve liked people all over the world. I don’t think I’m quite like will Rogers who said, “I never knew a person that I didn’t like.” But the important key word, the operative word in that is knew. And I think if we know people, we appreciate people and doesn’t matter what color they are, what ethnic background they have. I’ve got friends all over the world and all of them have contributed to my life, and I’m a better person as having known them. People like Mark Rosenthal and others that influenced me.

00:45:52 - 00:45:54

Did you know Will Rogers?

00:45:54 - 00:45:57

No. Okay, I gotta ask that.

00:45:58 - 00:46:12

(indistinct) You were teaching, you had horse experience and you’re teaching zoo medicine, but did you have any idea that part of your career would be actually working in the zoo?

00:46:14 - 00:46:22

Not until I started doing it. And tell me about how you began doing it.

00:46:23 - 00:46:27

How did that Sacramento thing come about and get cemented in?

00:46:28 - 00:47:40

Well, as I mentioned, the dean wanted to a wildlife person, and I guess I initiated the actual zoo portion of it because I knew that I couldn’t supply the practical experience for students and I wanted a place where that could happen. And so I approached the people having already known the director or the superintendent who was called Dan. And he was very happy to have that. And Bill Steinmetz, who was the local practitioner also was very happy to have somebody else to back him up. And so that laboratory experience is maintained today. Who was the director or the superintendent when- Hank Spencer. And he started out as the superintendent of grounds for the city. And the menagerie is really started out as was his hobby.

00:47:42 - 00:49:32

And he built that up to a point where he had a lot of different animals. It was a place where animals that were confiscated from various sundry agencies could go and then ultimately went through various directors. He just, he was a pioneer, not schooled in care of animals, but he had an intuitive part associated with him and he learned the ropes. And in fact, on one occasion, we had one of TB tests, tuberculosis test, a group of macaques that were on an island exhibit with a motive enclosure, and we would normally take them into the night house and catch them there, but one animal, we couldn’t do it. So we went out on to the island with a net to try and catch this one animal, and he jumped in the water and swam out. And I was a neophyte, a zoo veterinarian at that point in time, and I got out my gun and the animal went up a tree. So the intrepid veterinarian with his capture gun went up the tree a little bit, and he jumped to another tree. After a couple of times doing this, Hank Spenser came up to me and said, “Murray,” he says, “I wanna show you something.” He says, “Put your gun away, go away and the monkey will come over to the side of the pool.

00:49:32 - 00:50:17

And when it comes over the side of the pool, we’ll surround it and it will jump back in and go to the island.” And it did. I’m proud of the fact that I was able to listen to him and understand some animal behavior. So animal behavior became an important part of my life to understand how they live, how they feel, essentially, how social ties they have, then this sort of thing. And it made, (clears throat) it extended my medicine. This is in 1967, that you’re at the zoo.

00:50:18 - 00:50:21

What kind of zoo did you find in ’67?

00:50:23 - 00:51:37

Well, I guess, and today’s standards, it wasn’t a zoo, it was simply a collection of animals, menagerie. And the animals who are being fed, they were in very small enclosures and there were limited numbers of animals, although we had lions, we had black buck antelope. Eventually we even had elephants in this situation in very and modern standards would be not savable or suitable habitat or enclosures, but that changed materially. And it changed as money became available. As a zoological society was formed to help with the organization. Sacramento is a municipal zoo, or it was at that time, it’s now managed by a zoological society. And I became a part of that community. I was president of the Sacramento Zoological Society on two separate occasions.

00:51:37 - 00:52:14

And again, working with townspeople and keepers, we didn’t even have curators at that point in time. And over a period of time, several different directors. And again, I like zoo people. And so that was a very enjoyable thing. Now you started to… You were starting as this veterinarian working at the Sacramento Zoo, helping them out.

00:52:14 - 00:52:22

Did you start to give yourself exposure to other zoos by visiting them to see what was going on?

00:52:23 - 00:52:26

And if you did, was it again, this self-teaching?

00:52:28 - 00:53:46

Well, it certainly was self-teaching in the sense that I had a lot to learn, but in terms of going to other zoos, yes, I did a good deal of that. In fact, early on probably the year after I became involved, I took a six-week tour of the United States. I left my family, I just picked up and drove essentially throughout the country and visited every major zoo in the United States. And I was up and down and cleared back on the east coast and so forth and talked to the veterinarians there. And sometimes (clears throat) I found appalling situations at some zoos. In fact, I remember going one zoo that I had an appointment to visit the director. And I was so appalled at the zoo when I walked through the front gate that I turned around and walked out. But in other cases, I had good experiences with the people in the zoo and gleaned as much as I could to help me.

00:53:46 - 00:54:30

And I guess that has been a… A characteristic of my career is I’m not ashamed of learning from other people, in fact, I may be even accused of plagiarizing other people, particularly when I write about it, I try to give credit for where I’ve learned these things, ’cause certainly I wasn’t the origin of a lot of things that I wrote about. But I’m not ashamed to ask for directions contrary to most men that don’t have that ability to condescend to ask directions.

00:54:30 - 00:54:40

Now during that time, how were veterinarians communicating with one another and sharing information?

00:54:40 - 00:54:51

How was that done over that initial thing when you started at the Sacramento Zoo and you were doing this tour and you were meeting people, how did you communicate?

00:54:52 - 00:56:29

Well, that’s an interesting challenge because communication is the key to success in any operation, whether it’s a zoo or a business or anything like that. And the challenge was that they weren’t communicating. A few veterinarians had met in the early 1940s at the AVMA meeting, and they shared some ideas, they talked about special challenges, they started to share case reports. But it isn’t like today where I can call somebody somewhere in the world, and within three calls, I can find out about any given animal or some experience that I need to get some information on. It didn’t exist then. So when we started having annual meetings in the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians, that was the most important thing that we could do, would be to communicate. And the more effective we became in that regard, the better the profession advanced. Now the other thing that is of some concern to me is not only the communication veterinarians, but also the communication of all staff people within the zoo.

00:56:30 - 00:56:42

And I find that’s a very challenging situation. Always. You were an on-call veterinarian at the Sacramento Zoo.

00:56:42 - 00:56:45

I mean, you’d go there, what was your routine?

00:56:45 - 00:56:48

You’d go there once a week, twice a week with your student?

00:56:48 - 00:57:52

Usually as we develop the program, we would go to the zoo at least two days a week with students. And then we had clinics where we accepted animals at the university at the same time. But in addition to the Sacramento Zoo, we had the Mickey Grove Zoo, which is an accredited zoo in Lodi, California, about 30 miles from Davis. And the Folsom Zoo with more a rehabilitation facility, not rehabilitation, but a repository for animals that were not wanted or were confiscated. And so we sometimes would spend a day at each one of those, or sometimes we would combine them into the same day, but we always had students with us except on emergencies, and then we may or may not have students with us.

00:57:53 - 00:57:56

What is the difference?

00:57:56 - 00:58:11

Because vets that are on-call are limited in many ways, but what would you say is the difference in what did it difference did it make when full-time vets were starting to be hired or added to zoo staff, other than the obvious that someone’s there?

00:58:15 - 00:58:56

Well, I think the level of practice of preventive medicine was elevated materially when there was somebody there constantly in staff meetings and knowing more about the functioning of the zoo in Toto. And I think that it’s just necessary to be part and parcel of the whole program and not just peripherally being called, “Hey, I’ve got a problem, come in and solve it.” They’re part of the solution rather than just to come in fire engine type.

00:58:58 - 00:59:08

When you were at the zoo, did the zoo provide veterinary technicians that were on staff and state, and then you’d come in and go out?

00:59:08 - 00:59:16

Did you bring your own, were you essentially bringing the entire staff, whatever was needed to do things when you visited the zoo?

00:59:18 - 01:00:38

Well, the use of assistance, if you will, or technical associates, however you wanna call it was non-existent. In the early stages of my career, we essentially worked with the head keeper in every area of the zoo that we were involved with at the time. As we moved along, there became an opportunity for them to assign a given keeper as the vet assistant. When we started the program, there was no hospital, there was essentially no that supplies or anything like that. We were soon given a cubby hole and then a room where we could keep things that were necessary. For instance, the incubators for young animals or small supply of drugs and these sorts of things. But it wasn’t until fairly recently that we had full-time animal health techs in Sacramento. Other zoos did have those kinds of individuals.

01:00:38 - 01:02:02

And I envied that, but we just did what we had to do. I had a technician from the university that worked with me in the program there, and he would sometimes come with me to the zoo. And that was an extremely important thing, certainly when we had to anesthetize an animal. And that was one of the reasons why essentially Bill Stamets was very happy to have us come in because he didn’t have those drugs, and I didn’t have them until I started the program, and then for many years, I was the only person that had some of the high powered stuff like Etorphine or M99. So that I was called to San Francisco, I was called Sacramento because of the fact that I had the drugs, and eventually I had the experience of using those drugs and anesthetizing animals. Now, you mentioned that there were, at the time you started, there was no curatorial staff, I assume that at some point in time during your practice, they did hire those type of professional people that were at the zoo.

01:02:02 - 01:02:05

What was your relationship with the curators?

01:02:08 - 01:03:37

Well, my relationship with the curators was always good. I didn’t feel a competition, I know that this exists in the zoo world, I know that there are issues of who’s the boss, and I never had that personally. I had some personality conflicts with keepers, but most of those were dealt with fairly easily by just sitting down and explaining how I felt and allowing them the same things. And we settled our differences and went on down the road. But I think that the Sacramento Zoo and the staff there, including me were quite compatible. But I do know that the curators, primarily, sometimes even whole sections of the zoo might be antagonistic or a loof from veterinary services. For instance, in some reptile collections, the reptile people said, “I know more than you do about reptiles. Why do I need to listen to you?” And some veterinarians wouldn’t listen.

01:03:41 - 01:04:48

So that I did listen, and I felt that this was extremely important. And when I got into trouble is because I wasn’t listening and the curatorial staff or jealousies of who’s boss, and this sort of thing is really a lack of communication. Somebody used the term territory in terms of situations in a zoo. I would rather replace territory with teamwork. And I think one of the challenges, or one of the reasons why there is a difficulty with the conflicts between zoo veterinarians and curatorial staff is because there aren’t regular staff meetings where people have to talk to each other and eventually I hope listen to each other. And that’s probably as important as talking to each other.

01:04:49 - 01:04:54

Did the zoo have to pay for your services or was it given free by the university?

01:04:55 - 01:05:58

Initially it was free from the university, the terms of payment for our services, but eventually there was a budget for primarily medicine and this sort of thing. But since it was a laboratory, a letter of a resolution, you know, of, I can’t think of the word that you use, cooperation that existed between them, and then eventually there was a fairly significant budget. They never paid the salary of the veterinarian, but they did pay for expenses. And when animals had to come to the hospital, sometimes we were able to get some money for that, other times that service was free gratis. You talked about learning, and that you’re always willing to listen to people and learn.

01:05:58 - 01:06:16

Did you ever have occasion to call upon human doctors and specialties or a medical team, a concept outside of veterinary medicine to help with different problems that may have occurred?

01:06:17 - 01:07:46

Well, that’s an interesting question. And it was very important to me because I learned how to cooperate with other personnel, other medical personnel, even before I started with the zoo business. I was in a research project with some human thoracic surgeons who dealt with cancer and so forth, but they also dealt with a disease called emphysema. And we used the horse as a model because of my experience with equine surgery, I was asked to be a part of that team. And we developed techniques essentially for doing chest surgery in horses that had never been done before. One of the first groups that had done it, in fact, even today, I have more experience with thoracic surgery in a horse than anybody else in the world, ’cause we did over a hundred animals with open chest surgery. And I was working with physicians and dentists, oral surgeons, the whole gamut of medical specialists. In fact, one of the people that I worked with there was one of the first people to use the stapler in cardiac surgery.

01:07:47 - 01:09:28

‘Cause at that time they were using a technique called using the internal thoracic artery and stapling it or transferring it to the coronary artery for blood supply when the coronary artery was blocked. And he used a stapler instead of suture material to do that. And he went over to Russia who developed this technique and actually purchased one of their units. And he learned how to do that, working with calves and me as the animal surgeon to learn how to use those staplers. Now they’re used routinely in that kind of surgery and even intestinal surgery and everything else. So I had that experience as far as a professional veterinarian, I just had numerous occasions. The dentist that I used personally helped me do a test abscess in an elephant, he also taught me how to do root canals, and for 10 years or so, I was the only person on the faculty at the University of California Veterinary School that knew how to do a root canal on any species of animal. Now it’s routinely down, in fact, the veterinary school, Davis has two dentists that are on the faculty, but I knew how to do that because of my work with other people.

01:09:28 - 01:10:00

And on one occasion, I had an animal brought to me, a chimpanzee, a young chimpanzee with inguinal hernia. And the owner wanted to save this animal, not just as an animal, but he wanted it to be a breeding animal. And so it involved closing the hernial gap without compromising the blood supply to the gonad.

01:10:04 - 01:10:42

That was a little bit beyond me at that point in time, and I called the pediatric surgeon in the medical school and I called and talked to his secretary and she said, “Oh, he’s much too busy to talk to you about this.” And I said, “Well, giving the message, I’d like to talk to him and get some thoughts about the sort of thing, because I like him to be involved in the surgery.” And she said, “Oh no, can’t, he just doesn’t have time.” So we’ll just give him the message within five minutes, he was calling back and he said, when did we do it?

01:10:42 - 01:12:10

And I’ve had that sort of cooperation over the years with all kinds of physicians and surgeons and research people, and certainly in the area of research and just general zoo medicine now, there are so many facets of it that no one person can do it all, and they shouldn’t do it all. We’re all ignorant, it’s just about different things. And so if you learn that technique or you learn that principle and you then ask people, they’re usually very cooperative, and it’s usually pro bono stuff, you know, we share that sort of information. I was giving a talk to a group of specialists in human medicine about my experience with wild animals and talked about all the various things that I do. And one fellow came up to me and said, “Boy, I envy you so much. I spend all day long sewing blood vessels, and here you’re dealing with real animals, you know, and the whole animal and this sort of thing.” And I got an appreciation, you know, I do a lot of different things with a lot of different animals.

01:12:12 - 01:12:30

How difficult was it in those days as you were at the Sacramento Zoo with that collection of jumping from a bird to a rhinoceros, was it just, that’s what it was, or was it calling for different types of discipline in every case?

01:12:30 - 01:13:40

No, it shouldn’t be a different discipline to utilize or be involved with different animals. In fact, on one occasion, I flew to Southern California to do a major surgery on an elephant, and we finished up quite rapidly. I was able to fly back to the university that same afternoon and did a hernia operation in a parakeet. Other than the size of the tools and this sort of thing, it was not difficult at all. You just learn to deal with it, whether it’s a hummingbird or an elephant, the principles are the same, and if you’ve got the right attitude, and it is an attitude and situation. In fact, when we were visiting with Tommy and he talked about the difference in people would say, “I don’t wanna think about that animal.” And I got that all the time.

01:13:40 - 01:13:46

And I said, okay, I started then, how would you deal with this in a sheep or a dog?

01:13:47 - 01:13:55

But this isn’t a dog, but the principles are the same, just get with it and do it.

01:13:59 - 01:14:15

Were the staff the only obstacles that you encountered when you were starting the Sacramento Zoo experience, whereas the other obstacles you’ve kind of alluded, was it the medical part of it with the supplies and so forth?

01:14:15 - 01:14:19

Were those the major things that you had overcome or were there other things?

01:14:20 - 01:15:46

Obstacles. I don’t really think of these things being obstacles, because in the early days you never had all of the things that you would have liked to have had to accomplish your task. I guess I could answer that in a different way in that I was my sister Meredith a rancher from Idaho, and I was visiting there with my family and theirs, and he had a horse that had a bad tooth. And I said, “This horse needs to have a tooth removed.” Well, I knew that he didn’t have the money or there weren’t veterinarians in the area that knew how to remove a tooth. Well, I did. And so we didn’t have the proper equipment. He was a good machinist and we manufactured a chisel to do the wound work that was necessary and other items that were needed to tap that up. I went to a local pharmacy and bought all of the anesthetic material that was in their armamentarium.

01:15:46 - 01:16:49

And then we use physical restraint and local restraint. And we did it. We didn’t have any of that when I went there and I’ve found that many cases, in fact, at the zoo one time we were working on a zebra and we needed a special device. And my technician was with me at that point in time. And I said, “We need this piece of equipment while this animal is anesthetized.” And so I sent him back to the university to get that piece of equipment. And in the process, I had to maintain the animal under anesthesia, and he drove as fast as he could, in fact, faster than he wanted to. And he got pulled over by the highway patrol and I way patrol after he explained what the situation was, the highway patrol took him to the university and brought him back with a red lights blurring. And he started traveling about 120 miles an hour.

01:16:49 - 01:17:49

He said, “That’s faster than I wanted to go.” But it got there and we accomplished the task. So it wasn’t that they didn’t want to supply these things, but the money was not there for all the specialized equipment. So they’re obstacles, but they’re not, if you just recognize, okay, plan B, we’ll do it a different way. And some people would say, “Oh, I can’t do it. I don’t have the right tools.” Well, sometimes I think our students now, when an animal comes into the hospital, the first thing they want to do is do a cat scan or an MRI instead of doing a physical examination. And you can’t beat that hands-on stuff.

01:17:49 - 01:17:52

When you’d go to the zoo, did you have a set group of people?

01:17:52 - 01:17:54

Was it the students who would…

01:17:54 - 01:17:58

Did you have a retinue of people that would normally come or was it just you going to the zoo?

01:18:00 - 01:19:39

We always had a group of students that had selected the opportunity to do somewhat of a specialized experience with zoos. So these were motivated people, they weren’t every student in the veterinary school that came with me. Except for emergencies, there were always students, and there were always people that were interested. I didn’t have to deal with people of, “I don’t like elephants, or I don’t like this or that.” I dealt with that other students that would not be interested, for instance, if they were interested in dogs and cats, they didn’t want to have anything to do with large animals. In fact, one of our colleagues, you know, Craig Machado, actually, when he went through veterinary school, he was so focused on wild animals that he didn’t do well in some of these other courses that dealt with domestic animals. And I feel that that wasn’t the correct way to go. Well, he subsequently got into the zoo field directly because of his high motivation and he learned that. But I would contact students in this day in time and tell them first, get a broad base in veterinary medicine.

01:19:39 - 01:20:53

In fact, the best thing I think that they can do is to do a internship, or work for a good small animal practice or a good mixed animal practice before they have delve into zoo animals. ‘Cause you don’t have the numbers of cases. Somebody may agonize over lancing an abscess in a cat. Well, if you do in a zoo animal while it’s under anesthesia it may wake up before you make a decision, and having experienced that in a small animal practice and just doing it is important. And the other thing too, is that if a person gets into the zoo business, and decides that they don’t wanna do it, if they haven’t got that good background in medicine or in practice, they may not be able to make the switch back to doing other animals. But if they’ve done that before, know that they can do veterinary medicine with other species of animals, they’re much better person, they get more experience.

01:20:53 - 01:21:01

Were there any things that caught you off guard at the zoo that you weren’t expecting?

01:21:02 - 01:22:38

Catching off guard. That’s an interesting question. I guess I never had that mentality as being caught off guard because almost every situation that you dealt with was the first time or a second time. And it was just part and parcel to the business to roll with the punch. There were times when I didn’t have the appropriate drug and I guess a best example of that was that I was actually doing field work with big horn sheep in California. And a colleague and I who is also a veterinarian were shooting an elk and bull out from the helicopter. And I was the shooter and we shot the animal with the M99. And that’s an interesting side too, because I’m afraid of heights, and I was standing out on the skid of the helicopter with nothing but a tether attaching me to the helicopter, aiming at this elk, bouncing from 50 feet in the air to a thousand feet in the air.

01:22:38 - 01:23:43

And you couldn’t catch me up on a top of a six foot stepladder otherwise. But the point is we got the animal anesthetized, the helicopter, and with us in it landed, we did the physical examination and we put it in a sling. And we were going to attach the sling to the bottom of the helicopter and move it to a transfer area. The challenge was that the helicopter couldn’t lift the elk and us at the same time. So they left us there and he was gonna come back for us. And he transported the elk to processing area. And during the process, we removed the syringe from the animal. And while we’re just sitting there waiting, my colleague opened the syringe to almost kind of automatically, and all the drug hadn’t been deposited so it got onto his hands.

01:23:45 - 01:24:01

And he looked at me and says, “You have the antidote, don’t you Murray?” I says, “Don’t you bud?” And neither one of us had the antidote, and that’s a no-no in a mobilization, is not to keep the antidote with the active agent.

01:24:05 - 01:24:09

And what were we gonna do?

01:24:09 - 01:24:54

Well, we didn’t have a canteen with us, there was no water around, we were in a desert area. And I said, “Will you accept artificial respiration if I have to give it to you?” And he said, yeah. And yet we thought about water source and we didn’t have any except urine. And under those kinds of circumstances, when you’re all shook up, that doesn’t work either. So we just used sand and we rubbed his hands with sand and he didn’t have any after-effects, but that was a factor of not having the right drug at the right time.

01:24:56 - 01:25:03

As a side, how did you get connected with circus and the Ringling brothers show?

01:25:11 - 01:26:41

I have been associated with circuses fairly early on in my career at the university when I was in a horse practice, because circuses would come to the university with their animals when they were in town. And again, I showed interest in some of these critters, so that I was the point person. I got acquainted with these people, I was invited to go to visit the circus, to actually watch them raise the big top. There was a circus that was still doing a big top, and they used their elephants to lift the tents up. And that intrigued me. And then I got asked by one of the veterinarians to evaluate an elephant in Cleveland, Ohio, because it was lame. Dick Hulk was his name, Richard Hawk, and I went there and evaluated the animal. From then on, I had different people.

01:26:41 - 01:28:21

Bill Lindsey invited me to do consulting work with him, and I was just willing to respond first to their calls and then become part of actually their team. And that was a satisfying work, we conducted some elephant schools for veterinarians and others that I was involved with. I became interested in lamenesses, particularly of horses, but also elephants. And it was an evolutionary process for work with the circus. I had never been to a circus when I was a child, but I became enamored with a book called “Circus Doctor” by J.Y. Henderson, who is a pioneer in circus medicine and a delightful gentlemen in later years, I did meet him. But there’ve been a lot of great people, but they were flying by the seat of their pants as far as medicine at these animals are concerned. They used the principles of domestic animal medicine to be sure, some of them came for instance, J.Y. Henderson and Bill Lindsey came from the equine world, but there’ve been veterinarians that have come from small animal practices. I’ve worked with several different of veterinarians from Ringling.

01:28:22 - 01:29:34

Dennis Schmidt, who is a reproduction specialist, is now kind of the head of their research program. He’s a university veterinarian for all kinds of domestic large animals. And there’s much that he has taught us. And he’s gone all over the world to learn new techniques for working with these animals. And I think that the big circuses are doing a lot for the care of those animals. Those are valuable animals, and they expend tremendous funds to treat animals that get sick deal with preventative medicine situations so that the animals don’t get sick. And I am proud to be associated with circuses, I think they have a place in the world, and say, rah, rah for circuses. Circuses and zoos, they have much in common, and yet zoos take a more negative view towards circuses, generally speaking.

01:29:34 - 01:29:44

How do you feel about circuses and their use of wild animals, and let me go a step further, this relationship with the zoological field?

01:29:49 - 01:32:02

I think that the relationship of zoos and circuses, and I appreciate the fact that there are challenges associated with it. I believe that it’s, again, an appreciation for a slightly different approach to medicine. For instance, in elephants, the use of a no contact or protected contact is con trusted with free contact. Circus elephants must be handled under free contact and circuses then take exception to the ACA’s edict, you know, that also is had, that are keeping elephants ultimately have to do it under protected contact. The circus elephants are highly trained, they respond well. I don’t think they have to be abused to be responding well, but in terms of meeting of the minds, if you will, between zoos and circuses, is just a built in prejudices of those handling procedures. I think one of the things that zoos resent is the exploitation of these animals in terms of either making them do things that they perceive they don’t do normally. For many years, zoos felt that having an elephant stand on its hind legs is not a normal behavior for elephants, but I’ve seen pictures more recently where these animals reach up by standing on their hind legs to get a morsel of food from a tree or something like that.

01:32:07 - 01:33:17

I really hate to see that situation. The same thing exists with zoos and free ranging wild animals. There’s a conflict there ideologically and philosophically, but by the same token, they need to utilize what’s known in the captive situation to learn more about the wild situation and vice versa. Are you talking about game ranches or are you about animals and- No, the free ranging animals that are being studied or being handled. For many years, there was a conflict between wildlife veterinarians and zoo veterinarians. I think this is a false premise that there is a difference. The approach for free ranging wild animal medicine is an epidemiologic approach. The captive animals are individual animal medicine-oriented.

01:33:23 - 01:33:31

But there’s a need for both, and we’ve just got to understand each other.

01:33:37 - 01:33:42

How many circuses, you’ve worked for really have you worked for other circuses?

01:33:42 - 01:36:16

Over the years, I’ve worked for maybe three or four different ones, some of which I can’t even name right now, but size, one of the most controversial situations right now relative to elephants, is a company called Have Trunk Will Travel. And I know the Johnsons, I know them well, I’ve been on their ranch and I know that their capabilities and their interests and concerns for their animals, and they are being hammered on something fierce by animal rights extremists. I think that we’re all concerned about animal abuse and yet the extremists would have us not have animals in captivity at all, including pet animals, livestock animals, this sort of thing. And these people provide elephant rides, and they’re going through a phase right now where every time an organization such as the city or fairgrounds or something like that wants to have these elephants, they just hammer on them incessantly and try to get their boards of directors for these facilities to ban elephants, communities wanna ban them. It’s just wrong. This organization provides animals for the movies, in fact, the movie “Water for Elephants,” that was the Johnson’s elephant. Well, I got acquainted with Gary Johnson’s father because he brought an animal to me and it was the first animal that was ever castrated in the United States. And it was Gary’s father that owned that animal, actually got it from the Los Angeles Zoo because it was a danger to people, there were some incidents that brought that to the fore and they decided they were gonna get rid of this animal.

01:36:16 - 01:36:34

And Gary or Gary’s dad said, “I’ll take it.” And we tried to rehabilitate it. And it became a usable animal. And in fact, it’s still in use in Europe, it’s been used in circuses over there.

01:36:37 - 01:36:40

So how did you begin working with elephants?

01:36:40 - 01:36:42

Was it just, there you’re were at the circus and they were they were?

01:36:45 - 01:38:02

(chuckles) Again, the involvement with elephants started with a case. And that case was a young elephant that was brought to the university, to veterinary school, and I was put in charge of it. And I actually developed or diagnosed ascorbic acid deficiency, which is vitamin C. And it turns out, and I did this by doing a little bit of sleuthing, that some of the early forages that these animals are exposed to are very high in vitamin C. And when they lack vitamin C, they get some unique characteristics of the covering the bone, the periosteum. And I was able to work with the radiologist, and we made the diagnosis and corrected that situation. And that was the first professional paper that I ever wrote, was about an elephant. So that from then on, I liked those critters.

01:38:04 - 01:39:02

We had two elephants of the Sacramento Zoo, so I had a lot of experience with them, good experiences, they were good elephants, well-trained elephants under free contact. Got spoiled relative to that. I’ve subsequently of when I, at one time looked at the case records of animals that I had been exposed to, including the circus elephants, a couple of hundred elephants. There aren’t very many people in the United States that have that experience with that number of different elephants. Most veterinarians will only deal with two, maybe four at the most elephants in their lifetime. And I’ve had the experience of working with literally hundreds of elephants. And basically it’s been a good experience, I have never been hurt by an elephant.

01:39:02 - 01:39:10

I was gonna ask, did you find early on that each one had its own personality, and likes and dislikes?

01:39:10 - 01:40:40

They surely do, every animal has their own personality, and elephants are no exception. And there are good elephants, there are bad elephants, and I’m fully aware of all the fatalities that have occurred with elephant accidents and actual, not accidents, but incidents where elephants have been responsible for the death of people. I wouldn’t say that all of those are the result of lack of training, because there are individual differences with a given elephant, but each one of them could be avoided by people not taking the chance, there’s some elephants that should only be handled under protective contact. There’s no question about that, but there are others that certainly can be dealt with. I admire elephant trainers and elephant handlers. I think they have to be trained to do it well. And I think zoos, if they’re gonna be involved with elephants, it’s incumbent upon the zoo to make sure that their elephant people are properly trained to do that, and not just take somebody and let them learn in-house. They need to get some experience with other people that know something.

01:40:43 - 01:40:47

We had mentioned that circus life is not for every person.

01:40:47 - 01:40:53

What did you like about working with the circus animals and what was the dislikes of that?

01:40:57 - 01:42:13

Well, the work with the animals in a circus is straightforward, no problem there. The challenge as I see it is actually with people and that gets back to same old, same old, or communication is the challenge. Circus people have been hammered on from a variety of situations, a lot of them have lived their whole life dealing with elephants. We think of Uzis or mahouts in India as living with their elephants, we’ll some circus people have done that same thing. And now we have a group of young people that come in and think they’ve got all the answers, and they don’t have the experience working with them. And they get themselves into trouble, and get other people into trouble as well. But they do have different personalities, they have likes and dislikes. There are some that don’t like individual people.

01:42:16 - 01:43:11

They may have reasons for that, there are other animals to do the same thing. I had an African gray parrot that hated women. And yet I could do anything I wanted to, and any man could perhaps do the same thing, but they didn’t like… There are pets that have grown up in a family of wild animals. For instance, a mountain lion, when that cat matures, it treats other members of the family differently. And even some situations where animals, for instance, carnivores in that case, will treat a woman who was having her cycle differently than men or women who are not having their period.

01:43:17 - 01:43:35

You talked about, and then when we talk about the elephants, what would you say have been some of the major medical improvements and advancements in dealing with elephant medicine from when you first started?

01:43:38 - 01:45:28

I can talk that up from a standpoint of foot problems and elephants are always a special challenge. And when I first started, we dealt with physical restraint as the only means of examining those feet and treating foot problems. Nowadays with the advancement and training procedures and so forth, much of that can be prevented, much of it can be dealt with by proper training. And ultimately the development of relatively safe chemical restraint or sedation things have made elephant medicine important. But I think the special challenges for not necessarily from me, but from veterinarians dealing with elephants in general is dystopias or reproductive problems, the successful cesarean sections in elephants has not been very good, there’ve been just too many challenges associated with that and deaths of the animals subsequent to that. But I think foot problems are still the biggest challenge that veterinarians have. We’ve got better ways of treating it, we understand a little bit better about the healing process of wounds. The protection of wounds is necessity of protection of foot after handling is an important factor.

01:45:30 - 01:45:36

You mentioned that thankfully you’ve never been hurt working with elephants.

01:45:36 - 01:46:01

Have there been some memorable situations where for one reason or another, you might’ve been in an awkward position or something that surprised you so much about the intelligence of an individual elephant, that you were quite aware that it was very unusual when you were doing your medical issues with that particular animal?

01:46:01 - 01:46:04

Were there some situations that stand out?

01:46:10 - 01:48:00

In thinking about different situations that transpired with working with elephants, I never personally have been involved in a close call working with elephants. But I remember one particular elephant actually in Wisconsin, in Madison, that Bill Lindsey and I, and he’s an alumnus essentially of Madison Veterinary School ’cause that’s where he did his residency in equine surgery. We went to visit that zoo, and we knew that the elephant that we were working with had a bad tooth. We dealt with that, but we also knew that there the companion elephant was a toughie. And we didn’t have any problems because they kept them separated, but Bill got called back not long after that and got involved with the elephant that had bad habits of hurting people, and he got too close to it, it hit him with a trunk and knocked him down, and I think it broke some ribs really battered him pretty good wall up. And I guess one of the first things that I learned was learn what the offensive and defensive characteristics, how they express themselves with different species of animals. That’s important with elephants. I’ve had elephants that have tried to crowd me a little bit.

01:48:00 - 01:48:33

I never worked with an elephant where I didn’t have a keeper that was knowledgeable about elephants that was under control of that elephant. And yet I knew that they could slap with their trunks, they could kick, they can smack you with a tail, they can press you, they can head press you. They can do a lot of things. And I learned that fortunately early in my career, and I just never allowed it to happen.

01:48:36 - 01:48:51

On a different subject, but still within zoos and circuses, how did you deal or how did you see it dealt with animal activists when they were attacking you to the zoo or the surface?

01:48:52 - 01:48:55

Were you ever the focus?

01:48:58 - 01:51:22

Well, yes, I have been the focus of given situations. I mentioned at least one point where the media was there, and the animal activist jumped on that and said how terrible a veterinarian I was. I think in a lot of situations, I have been in political meetings where elephants were discussed and people bad mouth me of not knowing about, or I’ve been misquoted with regard to the care of elephants. I feel that in some cases that some of the major organizations in the animal extremist point of view have a contract out on me because of my bold statements against them. And I actually, I am not against animal welfare and animal rights, I believe they do have rights, but I don’t believe they have rights that are comparable to rights between people. And I’ve even received an award for animal welfare from the American Veterinary Medical Association. And I’ve worked closely with American Humane Association, and even the Humane Society of the United States, which in some cases has elements in it that are extremists. But a lot of these organizations do good work, and if they expend their efforts in terms of working with animals and providing for their better health and welfare and wellbeing, I have been pleased to be working with them, but the extreme people, they don’t like me, and I certainly don’t espouse their programs.

01:51:22 - 01:51:38

When you were working with animals, either the zoo or the circus, but the zoo, did you ever get close to any of them that you really have- You mean any of the animal extremists?

01:51:38 - 01:51:54

No, at the zoo, the animals that you worked with, did you get close to any of them that some are patients, some are special patients ’cause they recognize you or they knew who you were in a positive way as opposed to a negative way?

01:51:56 - 01:52:52

Well, we’re told that we shouldn’t become emotionally involved with any of our patients in veterinary medicine. That’s impossible because you do get emotionally involved. And I became specifically involved with some of the primates. We had chimpanzees at the Sacramento Zoo, and one of those chimpanzees hated me with a passion. It was a male chimpanzee and he would throw feces at me whenever he got the chance. His cage mate female essentially loved me. Through a glass enclosure, she would come over and kiss through the glass. Joey would come in and hit the glass, trying to get at me.

01:52:53 - 01:54:13

It can’t throw feces through the glass, so he didn’t do that, but I could come in on a Sunday afternoon in a business suit and he would recognize me. And the people at the zoo often knew that I was in the zoo because the chimpanzees had some high, their enclosure had an elevated portion to it. And they could see when I came into the zoo and they would set up a chatter so that the keepers all knew that I was in the zoo. Students didn’t want to walk with me past Joey’s enclosure when he was in a cage to a wire cage situation, because he would throw things at me. So, yeah, we became very enamored. I had a cheetah that I worked with quite closely. I never really had a favorite animal, but there were some that I talked to that I had good relations, I could accomplish a significant amount. We had a taper that I was able to…

01:54:13 - 01:55:31

You don’t get close to a taper in terms of emotional closeness, but I could accomplish a lot with that animal by just going easy, stroking it and doing, I could do a rectal, not a palpation, but take a temperature and this sort of thing. So I think that zoo veterinarians have their likes and dislikes. Since I had a fear of snakes, people often said, “Well, do you hate snakes?” And I said, “No, I don’t hate snakes.” I accept them for what they are, but you don’t attach, get any attachments to most reptiles. But the thing that astounds me in the modern day is that even some of the reptiles can be trained to do things, crocodiles to allow certain examinations. And I’ve wrestled with alligators and crocodiles and this sort of thing in a physical staying situation to accomplish a given thing that now animals can be trained to do the same things. And we were talking about a restraint of animals, and I wanna talk about criminalization.

01:55:31 - 01:55:35

What was your first experience using tranquilizers on animals?

01:55:35 - 01:55:44

And was this a new technology when you entered the field or was it developed as you were already in the field?

01:55:49 - 01:57:15

Well, the development of some of the drugs for chemical immobilization in the zoo field started in the 1950s. I didn’t graduate from veterinary school until ’55. And so, as I said with the chimpanzee, the only anesthetic agent that I had was a phenobarbital, which was a human sedative. We had other drugs that were used, drug called succinylcholine, which is a muscle paralyzer, and I used that on horses. So I knew about that, and the tranquilizers cable on the scene, I knew how to use tranquilizers. So we started to use those in wild animals, and they have limited use, at least most of the tranquilizers do. But the development of the powerful opioids, the narcotics, if you will, came on board about the time that I entered the zoo field intensely. So that my first experiences with these were with things like nicotine.

01:57:15 - 01:58:26

Red Palmer, who was the kind of the developer of the capture gun, and he used nicotine alkaloids as his agent. That was the only one that was available then. Well, there were succinylcholine and curare were also used, but that was the only commercial one that was available. And so I knew that there was a very low therapeutic index, in other words, the effective dose and the lethal dose were very close together. So that was not a satisfactory agent. And then we started getting new ones that came on the scene, almost exponentially. The Etorphine or M99 was developed in England and was pioneered, its use was pioneered in Africa. I’m trying to remember the first time that I used this.

01:58:27 - 01:59:43

First of all, you had to have a special license in order to even get the drug. I think probably the first time that I used it was on tule elk, and this was actually in a field situation with a free ranging elk. And I knew that it was a dangerous drug, I’ve already talked about, you know, my own exposure to that and getting exposed to the drug. So I was prepared for that situation. I used it on the elephant. In fact, I maintain the first elephant or the only one that I was successful at castrating with M99. And there was nobody else that could give me their experiences because they didn’t have any. I did work with anesthesiologists to help me complete the operation, to follow these animals through.

01:59:43 - 02:00:49

But oftentimes I was the anesthetist and the surgeon on the things that I did. I had some graduate students that started working with some of these drugs. Then the things like a Rompun or Xylazine came on the scene, we used these, we gained some experiences. We shared experiences at zoo meetings with these drugs. We’ve talked about our successes, our failures, and we all learned together. There was no precedent for this, we simply gained the experiences. And I guess the one thing that I was able to do or did do was to write about it. And there are some things that I wrote about that I didn’t really know as much as I thought I did, and subsequent experiences by other people found out that I was off misguided.

02:00:50 - 02:02:11

But that, so be it, we headed on down the road and did what we felt was necessary. I had failures, I lost an elephant under M99 anesthesia. That was a heart breaking situation. And interestingly, the elephant that I lost belonged to a fellow by the name of Rex Williams. Rex was a good circus elephant trainer, and he dearly loved this animal, but it was becoming a rogue. And he asked us to give it a go and I lost the elephant. And just within the past month, I received, the dean of the school received an email from the daughter of Rex William asking about that elephant and the disposition that was made of it. And I have subsequently communicated on the phone with that woman, who became an elephant trainer herself and also a stunt woman for the movie and television industry.

02:02:11 - 02:02:33

And this had a career in that area. And she and her daughter are going to be coming to the university, and I was gonna give them a tour of the veterinary school because the daughter is interested in becoming a veterinarian. So the cycle kind of takes some interesting turns.

02:02:34 - 02:02:48

Were these drugs that were coming on the market enabling you as a veterinarian to do cutting edge procedures that you couldn’t have done before in the earlier days?

02:02:48 - 02:04:02

The development of these restraint agents is one of the key milestones in the development of zoological medicine. I have no qualms about that at all. We can now do things that we couldn’t do before, diagnostic work, surgical work. Surgery in a wild animal is no different than in other domestic animals or in humans. And I’ve actually been involved with both. I’ve been an assistant surgeon in human surgery, and no, I have no qualms about that, I know how to deal with tissue and can cut and suture and do all the things that are necessary. Even reminiscing here about it, it’s just brought a lot of satisfaction to be able to do some of those things. You said you had specific licenses for some of these things that other people didn’t.

02:04:02 - 02:04:04

Were you in demand?

02:04:04 - 02:04:16

Were people calling you to assist or talk about cases that you may have been the pioneer in seeing or working in?

02:04:16 - 02:04:20

Were you all of a sudden being courted a lot of places?

02:04:20 - 02:05:51

Yes, I think that I was being asked to consult on cases that involved in mobilization particularly, and I felt that it was my opportunity and my responsibility to share so that… And I think that’s still the responsibility of anybody in the zoo business, is to share their good and their bad. These drugs are often very dangerous drugs. The government’s concerned about them, most of those drugs are abused in human medicine. The government took some of these drugs off the market. One of the early drugs that we used and I used considerably was phencyclidine. You can’t get that now, except on the street, it’s called angel dust or PCP and these sorts of things. We found out very quickly that this drug has adverse effects that are quite dramatic, including hallucinations.

02:05:51 - 02:06:54

And of course, that’s why that drug was abused. And even M99, not the M99, because it’s so lethal, it’s not very useful from an abuse standpoint, but it’s antidote is. And even some of these severe drugs, like etorphine have been used for suicides in people. And so we have to be very careful about how we use these drugs, the access to these drugs, they have to be kept in safes that can resist being hit by a 10 ton truck. All of these sorts of things become very important. And you have to be on a list, a government list, at the source of the company that produces the drugs in order to sell, you have to be on the list to get it.

02:06:57 - 02:07:03

One last question, before we break, was there a favorite part of the job of being a veterinarian for you?

02:07:03 - 02:07:05

Did you like the surgery more?

02:07:06 - 02:07:08

The diagnostic more?

02:07:08 - 02:07:12

Was there one part that was a little special?

02:07:17 - 02:08:53

I guess if I wanted to classify a phase or a facet of zoological medicine that was kind of special to me, it would be the surgery. I was trained as a horse surgeon, I knew how to do surgery, I didn’t back off, I could tackle anything. To remove a tumor from an animal’s leg two or three times, and then ultimately having to remove the leg because of the tumor was spreading, and then have that tiger go on and produce several offspring in the future was good. I’ve dealt with polar bears that I’ve… I did what we would call today, a colon cystectomy or a gallbladder removal in a polar bear. And that was a fun thing to do because I had to transport the polar bear from an acute situation, I mobilized it and took it to the university from the Lodi zoo, which was a long trip. And obviously animals can get over a drug or metabolize the drug. And I managed to get it to the university after being stopped by the highway patrol for speeding.

02:08:53 - 02:09:39

But to have that zoo receive that animal back and live a good life as a polar bear was a very satisfying. So the police stopped you, then you said, “I have a polar bear in the back?” They could see it, it was in the back of a station wagon, and they could see the polar bear there. And I said, “If I don’t get it there pretty quickly, I’m in trouble.” So they essentially did the same thing that they did to Terry Schultz by escorting me faster than I wanted to go. (laughs) You’re friends with a number of what we would call stars. And I know you were friends with Betty White.

02:09:41 - 02:09:50

How did these relationships in general, were they ever beneficial to the zoo or to the medical profession?

02:09:51 - 02:11:04

Well, the reason that they were important to the medical profession or zoos, particularly, in the case of Betty White, she was an animal lover and is an animal lover parks along. And she has done more probably for the cause of zoos than most of the professional zoo people because of her emphasis on animals and proper care of animals and so forth. And with the Morris Animal Foundation, which is a research foundation. And she was the president of that organization for years. And that’s how I first met her. And that’s because I was on the board of directors of that foundation myself. And so that’s when I got acquainted with her. And interestingly, we were both after we both were not associated with that organization to the extent that we were, and we both found ourselves in an airport waiting area, going to the same meeting, we hadn’t come together or anything like that.

02:11:04 - 02:11:21

And I noticed her, and she had her usual entourage following her. And then we both happened to see each other. She said, “Oh, Murray.” And she came rushing over to me and gave me a good old smack on the lips.

02:11:21 - 02:11:28

And everybody else said, “Who the heck is he?” You know, how does he rate type of situation?

02:11:28 - 02:11:33

But that’s the relationship we had. She’s just a wonderful woman.

02:11:33 - 02:11:34

So you can call her on the phone?

02:11:34 - 02:11:57

I could call her, in fact, I got a call from her one time when I was still in practice. And my secretary said, “Somebody by the name of Betty White called you.” And he said, “Is that the Betty White?” Yeah, she has called me and I called her.

02:11:57 - 02:12:02

So you also have known Zsa Zsa Gabor, was that in a professional way?

02:12:02 - 02:12:51

That was in a professional way. She had a burro, a burro that she wanted to castrate, and we were in an equine practice, and so I was elected to go castrate this burro. And when I got to her, she answered the door and she was in a house coat, she had her hair done up in curlers and she was doing her nails. Anything but a glamorous show girl at that point in time. So that was my association with Zsa Zsa. I castrated the donkey and it didn’t die, and so I was successful in that. You do so many things and you’re all over the place in a very positive way.

02:12:51 - 02:12:58

How did you juggle being a professor with your zoo work and other research projects?

02:12:59 - 02:14:07

Well, I was able to utilize my position in the university for the benefit of zoo animals. And I was given the privilege of doing that. In other words, it was sanctioned, authorized by the university for me to spend that time. I didn’t have any specific percentage of time that I was supposed to work at the zoo, but I was given a specific percentage of time to do clinical work, which included the zoo. So I was in what we called a half-time position for clinical work. And so that gave me an opportunity to do the work in the veterinary clinic, in the hospital, and also the zoo. And other things, for instance, travel sometimes… Well, I have never taken a vacation in my whole career.

02:14:10 - 02:15:21

I had accrued vacation time, but I was always traveling and was able to see the things that I wanted to see or take my family with me, or at least certainly my wife. And so I didn’t need to take a vacation, I’ve been in over 50 countries in the world. And so I just juggled it, I just utilize my time. And that’s one of the things that I learned how to do, both at home learning how to work, but in the university situation, I learned how to budget time and to utilize time. A lot of people at a university spend a lot of time in ancillary things that is just wasted, it’s maybe called recreation or this, that, and the other thing. But I could utilize my time to study appropriately. I had two children when I graduated from veterinary school, so there were family responsibilities and I still found time to study by utilizing time properly.

02:15:23 - 02:15:35

Now, what would you say about has the animal care and preventative medicine changed during your time, this evolution, nationally and internationally?

02:15:37 - 02:15:47

Have your clinics and things, have they been instrumental in helping them move in a certain direction or if you wanted to try and move it in a certain direction?

02:15:48 - 02:16:51

Well, I don’t think that I have tried to move in a certain direction as far as evolution of zoo animal care, I think that more specifically a combination of newer technologies, newer techniques, and not only in veterinary medicine, but also in zoo keeping in general, we learned more about nutrition, we learned more about proper housing, proper care, proper preventative medicine that was developed over a period of time. And we didn’t start it in the United States, it was being done in Europe and other places in the world, but we improved on it a good deal. And I think that’s what the evolution has been, is just utilizing what has been learned on biology and medicine to the nth degree.

02:16:52 - 02:17:02

You’re involved with a lot of organizations, what is their significance to the development of veterinary care?

02:17:02 - 02:17:03

What are the most important ones?

02:17:09 - 02:19:00

Well, there are many different kinds of things that have impacted veterinary medicine in general and human medicine. I think one of the more important things, as far as veterinary medicine is the adaption or adaptation of procedures or technologies that have been developed for human medicine for animal care. Including things like radiography and ultrasound and computerized, tomography, or CT scanning, MRIs, all of those things are utilized now, when we first started in the business, we didn’t have some of those or we didn’t utilize them. We were reluctant to seek help from some of these other specialized situations. And just like the zoo director, can’t be all things to all species of animals in a zoo, neither can the zoo veterinarian who frequently is a solo, may have assistance nowadays, but they can’t know everything about every species of animals. And so they have to work on this teamwork concept of the curators, the keepers, the veterinarians, the horticulturists, all of these people working together to improve the well-being not only of the animals, but the experience of people in the zoos. And I think this is a very important thing is that zoos exist for animals, and they also exist for people. And so all of those aspects need to come together.

02:19:00 - 02:19:32

And I think that zoo directors, for instance, have to be smart enough to surround themselves with people who can do these various things, and then have sufficient staff meetings and time for accounting of their discharges for good delegation and lack of micromanagement, allowing people to do their thing, but then ask them to report back on a regular basis.

02:19:34 - 02:19:49

You were president of the Sacramento Zoo Society, ’78, ’79, couple of questions, one, were you actively still doing veterinary medicine then for them?

02:19:49 - 02:19:51

How did they book into that job?

02:19:52 - 02:19:59

And what were the goals or what were you trying to move forward as though having a different hat on?

02:20:00 - 02:21:28

Well, at that time, the zoo was a municipal zoo, very small budget, we talked about the superintendent so forth. And the zoological society was minimally active. When I first started working at the zoo, Hank Spencer very quickly said, “I want you to be a consultant.” And literally that’s what it was on a group of people that are interested in furthering the zoo. And so I became a member of that society and have been so since 1967. And during the course of that, our early jobs were to assist Hank in going to the city, asking for funds for this, that, and the other thing, or to actually undergo financial or donation situations from individuals. And we found that there were a lot of people that were in favor of the zoo, some that weren’t in favor of it, but we capitalized on those that were in favor of it. And we finally built ourselves up to a pretty good size group and I happened to be elected to… And I was frequently elected position then, now it’s more…

02:21:29 - 02:22:09

Well, first of all, the new zoo is run by this zoological society, we didn’t do that when I was a member of the presidency and so it’s become a business. And then many zoos in the United States and other places in the world, zoos have become big business, and we need to recognize that, and recognize that it takes a lot of different skills or disciplines to effectively use the zoo and manage it correctly, and there has to be people to do that.

02:22:17 - 02:22:20

Where are you a reluctant president?

02:22:20 - 02:23:14

Not really. I was willing to accept the challenge. I guess one of the things that I have done throughout my career that hopefully has been beneficial is I have allied myself or allied myself with the industry. I didn’t come in just as a veterinarian, I came in as an interested person for zoos. And so I was interested in building up this, I taught students the veterinarians that are going to go into this area to become involved with the animals and become knowledgeable about the animals and the people that work with the animals. So that was an enjoyable part of the work as far as I was concerned.

02:23:14 - 02:23:20

During your long career, who have your mentors been?

02:23:20 - 02:23:24

Who has played a big role in helping your career?

02:23:31 - 02:25:11

In the university, my mentors or fellow faculty members, there was not one that was particularly outstanding. Although some were very knowledgeable, for instance, one of my colleagues at the university who was an equine surgeon, I admired the work that he did, I tried to learn some of the techniques that he utilized. The dean obviously was the one that said, “Go ahead and start building a program.” But there was no outstanding person. As far as the zoos are concerned, the people that were the current veterinarians working in zoos, and it didn’t start with me or the colleagues that I was working with, there’ve been zoo veterinarians, in fact, the first zoo veterinarian was at the London zoo in 1828 or 29. So people have been doing that. Another person, Oliver Graham Jones in London area, started working with the zoo at the London zoo. And I admired him because he was writing about it. I think another person that I’ve admired greatly, and I knew him as a person was a so-called Jim or a Harriet James Harriet.

02:25:11 - 02:25:55

He did more for veterinary medicine than any other person that I know of. In terms of the zoo, people like Clin Grey, Paul Chaffee, Chaffee, Mort Silverman, who was not a zoo veterinarian per se, but he did do a lot of work with the Atlanta. So he was from Georgia, Mitch Bush. These are people that were in the business, working at it, and I thought that they were good examples, and I tried to follow them as best I could. Now you have are active. were very active in the boy scouts.

02:25:55 - 02:25:58

How’d you get involved in that particular area?

02:25:58 - 02:26:04

How long have you remained active, and why is this an important organization in your opinion?

02:26:06 - 02:27:15

Well, I became actively involved with the scouting program because my boys or active in scouts and I worked with them. In fact, I’ve always, you know, my church activities. I’ve always been involved with youth activities in general, but scouts in particular. I became trained in the scout work. And over the years I’ve held of various in the sundry positions. I’ve been a cub master, I’ve been a scout master, I’ve been a scout chairman, in fact, I’m a current chairman of the boy scout troop committee. And I’ve also been involved since early days with a Christmas tree fund the scouting program in the city of Davis is actively involved with. It’s a combined effort of number of the units of scouting in the community of Davis.

02:27:15 - 02:28:03

And we have for many years were the only suppliers of Christmas trees. And at first of all, we went out and cut the Christmas trees. I commandeered the use of actually university trucks to truck them to Davis. And we sold them in the kind of a monopoly situation in the city. Now we purchased trees, but we’re still actively involved in that. And so I initiated that program and have been active in it more or less for over 50 years. And I’ve been a registered scholar for 50, 55 years. Well, once I got into the scouting program, again, I tried to learn as much as I could about it.

02:28:04 - 02:29:37

I went to what we call a wood badge, which is essentially graduate school for training scouters. I did that not only in the United States, but I did it in the home country for scouting, Great Britain. Lord Baden-Powell instituted a program called Camp Gilwell, where they trained scoutmasters and so forth in England. And I visited facilities there. In fact, the first scout encampment of the British Scouts was on a place called Brownsea Island, south of London or on the coast there. And so I’ve been intrigued with scouting not only for the natural history situation, but the principle of scouting is to my way of thinking preparation for citizenship. The scout oath starts with, on my honor, I will do my best to do my duty to God and to my country and to help other people at all times. And the scout law embodies interpersonal relationship like scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, brave, clean, and reverent.

02:29:37 - 02:31:02

And those are things that prepare a young man for life. And if they incorporate these things really into their life, they’re gonna be happier, the community is gonna be a better place, and life in general would be better. So I think that the scouting program emphasis on using outdoor activities as kind of a laboratory for learning citizenship is important. And I would hate to see that program denigrated in any way, because they are trying to make better citizens in any country that they are found in. And there is a unique situation that might be of some interest. Because when I was in Uganda, I was given the opportunity to go into the back country with a car that was touring. And the driver, we were off the beaten path quite a bit, and he hit a rock with the oil pan, and cut a hole in the oil pan, and we were in bad trouble, we didn’t have radio communications, this was before cell phones. So we lost all the oil on the dirt road.

02:31:03 - 02:32:28

And I saw a young man probably in his twenties, maybe 25 or so walking up the trail or up the road with a group of young men that looked to be about 12 years of age. And I just had it in my mind, this guy has got a group of scouts with him. And I reached out with my left hand and shook his hand. And the left hand shake is the universal greeting for scouts worldwide. And he accepted my hand and we knew immediately that we’re both scouters, we couldn’t speak his language, he couldn’t understand ours, but he saw the dilemma and he left the boys with us and ran to a village where there was radio communication. And we got help to correct that situation because of that left handshake. There were the same all over the world, and we would do well if we could handshake either right or left hands with everybody else in the world. You said that you carry index cards of various sayings or quotations.

02:32:29 - 02:32:36

Can you tell me one that’s you may carry that’s very meaningful to you.

02:32:36 - 02:32:39

And how has this quote helped you in your work?

02:32:41 - 02:34:56

Well, that’s an interesting question because you acquire various statements. I’ve already mentioned the fact that a Will Rogers said, “I never knew a person that I didn’t like.” With the operative word being knew. I have several quotations on teaching the story of a student that came to, I think it was Plato, or, oh, no, it was Socrates. And he said, “I want to be your student, I want to learn.” And Socrates took a hold of the young man and stuffed his head in a pail of water and held him underneath the water until the guy was blubbering, and you know, essentially ready to wrap it up. And I came up sputtering and said, “Why did you do that?” And Socrates said, “When you want to learn as much as you wanted to breathe, you’re ready to come to me and we’ll teach you about this, that, and the other thing.” So those are things to live by. I have a philosophy of success that consists of attitude, the decision that you make to want to learn something, to do something, the preparation that’s necessary, the practicing of that, the producing actually doing it and persistence. These are the things that result in success in any walk of life, whether it’s veterinary medicine or zoo management or anything else, if you can accomplish those things in their proper order, it’s gonna be to the benefit of whatever you’re seeking to do. You said that your religion played a very important role in your life.

02:34:56 - 02:35:02

How did it impact your work, your research and your behavior toward animals and people?

02:35:08 - 02:36:57

Religion to me is a way of life. And I tried to incorporate the principles that are taught in the Mormon church or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints into all aspects of our lives. Both my wife and I were born in the church, we were reared in the church and we’ll have held positions of leadership in the church throughout our lives. We’ve tried to teach our children the same things, and these are the same principles that would be used in other places in the world. We adhere to the golden rule, this has application to all aspects of life, and that is, we treat other people as we would have other people treat us. In some cultures, it’s called a silver rule, but most religions of the world have a similar say and being a Christian Church, the church preaches the 10 commandments, and they obviously follow the principles of Jesus Christ, which embodies, again, these principles that are found in the scout law and scout oath. And I try to teach or treat students, I try to teach or influenced keepers to do the same thing. For instance, I don’t like to listen to a profanity.

02:36:58 - 02:38:31

And I had many occasions when students would use profanity excessively, and I couldn’t understand that in some situations, but I’ve talked to people, because they are not able to express themselves, and they just use profanity to emphasize this, that, and the other thing. And I contend that it’s because they don’t have enough vocabulary to express themselves without using those statements. It has been a very grading thing for me to listen to women, in particular use these types of things. And yet it’s offensive to me to have men do it too. And I’ve stood up in a meeting where a presenter started showing inappropriate pictures, pornographic pictures, literally, degrading of womanhood. And I said, “Stop, this is offensive to me and hopefully to other people.” And I found out by a voice, a scent or clapping that there were other people that felt the same way. So I don’t tolerate that. I hope that I’m a tolerant individual of good conduct.

02:38:32 - 02:38:55

Doesn’t matter what religion, I’ve studied all kinds of religions in the world, they’re good in all religions. And I appreciate the fact that I can worship how I choose, but it’s also important that I, by example, followed where my thoughts or where my actions went.

02:39:00 - 02:39:07

A little different subject, kind of outside your role in the zoo, what should be the veterinarian’s role in conservation?

02:39:13 - 02:40:50

Well, they can only have a role in conservation if they are given the opportunity, and if they train themselves in the biology, I hate to see a veterinarian enter into any discussion or activity involving conservation when they don’t know what they’re talking about. And that involves sometimes a different language. We talked about ecologists, biologists. Each of these professions or disciplines has a language. And I think the veterinarians, if they’re gonna be involved in that need to learn so that they can talk to other people about conservation things. I believe that zoos, be they large or small, should be involved in conservation, and veterinarians should be involved in those projects as long as they’re knowledgeable. Conservation should be a budget item in any zoo, but everybody wants to go to Africa or South America to conserve their animals, but the Sacramento Zoo has a very active program going with San Francisco, garter snakes, a few thousand dollars, they’re doing some great things. You don’t need to go outside your community, any community, there are animals that need our attention on a local level.

02:40:50 - 02:42:38

And I think veterinarian should be involved in that. There was a time when wildlife biologists would say, “A disease is not a factor in the lives of these animals, they simply either live or they die,” And come what may that’s it, but we’ve got to have a different perspective on that. And there is a different perspective that these animals can become diseased through no fault of their own, with the movement of animals throughout the world, we’ve transported, not only animals, but their diseases with disastrous consequences sometimes. And veterinarians can be of help in coming up with some of those particular challenges, as long as they don’t come up with their attitude, that I’m deity relative to diseases, diseases is everybody’s business. And zoo directors and two curators have aspects of it that they need to be concerned about. I’m very much only opposed to non animal administrators, non animal oriented administrators, having the last say so, in whether a certain animal can be treated or can’t be treated. I think that is a veterinary prerogative, but it needs to be a provocative in a team effort, in a teamwork situation. In 1973, you went to Uganda for about four months to teach veterinary medicine.

02:42:39 - 02:42:42

How did you get involved in the program and how successful was it?

02:42:48 - 02:44:38

A lot of the things that have happened to me over the years have happened because I was prepared to respond to a request. And certainly that was the case. I was on a sabbatical leave, working at the San Diego zoo with keeper training programs, and the dean of school of veterinary medicine in Uganda visited Davis and talked to my dean. And he said, “I desperately need somebody to help teach this new school.” It was being developed in Uganda. “I need a clinical person, a person who knows something about dealing with other cultures, other animal species, and so forth. And could you please recommend somebody to me?” And my dean called me at San Diego and said, “I’ve got this opportunity for you and I’d like you to go.” It wasn’t any edict that I had to go, they gave me the opportunity and he extended my sabbatical leave to allow that essentially as a resident a professor at that veterinary school. And that was a very satisfying situation. I first went over there by myself, later on my wife joined me, but I had the opportunity to actually be very involved with that dean who happened to be very outspoken against Idi Amin Dada, who was many of you know, would be the dictator at that point in time.

02:44:39 - 02:45:49

And yet he was a very knowledgeable pathologist and he was very cooperative, and he essentially gave me a carte blanche to develop a clinical program. And I did that and I think it was quite successful. The school is doing well now, but perhaps one of the most important things was the social aspect of it. For instance, where I stayed was a flat that’s an apartment in that country, was on one side of the campus, the veterinary school was on the other side, and it was beyond a camp of the homes of the employees of the school, the laborers, if you will. And there were a lot of children in that deal. And it entailed that I walked through that in camp. If it was literally that every day. When I first walked through there, the children would run away, they were frightened because I was the only white person there.

02:45:50 - 02:46:22

Some of them had never seen a white person before. And when a black person is burned, the scar tissue frequently comes in white and they thought I had been burned all over. But when I left, after that period of time, when I walked through there, I had a child holding on to each one of my fingers, and they walked through the enclosure with me. That sometimes brought tears to my eyes.

02:46:22 - 02:46:26

Now, you mentioned you brought your wife and family or just your wife?

02:46:26 - 02:46:27

Just to my wife.

02:46:27 - 02:46:31

And she would travel with you to these various locations sometimes?

02:46:31 - 02:46:33


02:46:33 - 02:46:35

Can you relate the four wives story to us?

02:46:35 - 02:47:23

(laughs) Well, the dean, when I first got there said, “You know, according to Islamic culture, you can have four wives.” And I wrote home to Audrey and said, the dean told me that I could have four wives. And we got a chuckle out of that. And when she came over the dean reiterated to Audrey that, “I told him that he could have four wives while he was here.” And she said, “Well, that’s okay, as long as I can have four husbands.” And of course that was just a no-no for a woman to make that kind of statement. But I didn’t have four wives. He did have two or three though himself.

02:47:25 - 02:47:32

And when you were there, where was this teaching?

02:47:32 - 02:47:34

Where did you teach?

02:47:34 - 02:48:50

It was in Makerere or Makerere University in Kampala in Uganda, it’s the capital. The country had kind of the famous situation with the Jewish people in Entebbe, and the rescue of those people that was after I left there. But I had some interesting experiences with… I knew how to deal with student unrest while I was there. The student body president of the university disappeared. Come to find out that he had made a statement about the minister of education that was disparaging, he also happened to be a general in the army, in Idi Amin’s army. And he literally disappeared and everybody knew that he was killed ’cause they didn’t have any compunction about doing that sort of thing. So I knew how to deal with student malcontents.

02:48:51 - 02:50:33

I sometimes had hope that we could do somewhat the same thing with some of the student protests at some of our universities here, but that doesn’t go on our culture. But Uganda is at that in time was certainly a vicious dictatorship, but it gave me the opportunity to see that country and its animal life. I got a chance to interact with elephants, I got a chance to interact with carnivores, I was there for domestic animals, but I was given a vehicle and I could travel all over the country. And I did this pretty muchly without concern for my own safety. Shouldn’t maybe have not felt that way, but I saw every part of that country, saw some of the special challenges that were taking place. While I was there, I had an opportunity to interrelate with other veterinarians from outside the country, from some of the British of veterinarians and teaching. And I really enjoyed working with the students. And interestingly, I was able to work with a lot of female students there at the level of the college, they were on an equal footage with men, but before then they were very second class citizens.

02:50:33 - 02:50:44

It was interesting too, because the bathroom facilities were co-ed and those cultures. And so you run into different situations.

02:50:44 - 02:50:51

What was it like to incorporate the field work into the clinical practice, how did you manage it administratively?

02:50:54 - 02:51:59

Because I just did it. I integrated them by just doing it sometimes using the principle is better to do what you wanted to do and ask for forgiveness after you’ve done it, than to ask permission and be denied. So I worked with fish and game on their programs, we did a lot of work. I mentioned the work with elk. we did big horn sheep, netted them. I learned a lot of restraint check and I could participate in that because I knew something about it. And I just tried to open up my students to the concept of one medicine. I keep going back to that, but it was part of my philosophy, and I didn’t see anything different in the diseases of captive or wild animals, I just felt that I learned more about the biology of the animals by participating in those programs.

02:52:00 - 02:52:02

How often did you get out in the field?

02:52:02 - 02:52:55

Not very much ’cause I had teaching responsibilities. I was probably classroom teaching more than any other member of the faculty because I had all these courses. And at first I was the only person in this area. Today, there are probably 25 people that are participating in one way or another with teaching the same courses that I taught by myself for many years. So I couldn’t absent myself it to the field, but I did it under certain circumstances or when summer months I could do it. Our programs in the veterinary school went all year, but we didn’t have students going to classes during the summer months, so I was able to do some of those things then.

02:52:55 - 02:53:01

Any interesting stories from Uganda about difficult or things that surprised you when you got there?

02:53:04 - 02:55:16

Well, cultural aspects were important to me to learn and that’s been a joy as far as any other places that I’ve been in the world to learn some of the foods, some of the cultures, some of the religions that exist there, and Uganda was no different. It was the first time that I had been involved in a dictatorship, and it ended up as that just about the time I was ready to come home, was the time of the six-day war in Egypt. And Idi Amin had really done the dirt on the Israeli people by using their know-how to build some roads in Uganda, and then kicked the Israel people out of the country, and kept all their equipment and did all the bad things that he could possibly do to ’em. And so we had some experiences with that sort of mentality that we had to deal with. I was with my wife one time when we wanted to look at Lake Victoria, we had not seen the lake per se, we’d been around it. And we found a road that we could go to. And when we got to the lake, there were soldiers there with machine guns, and they essentially said, “Halt, don’t come any further.” And we of course couldn’t understand their language, and they didn’t understand ours. And with that was the only time that we were kind of fearful of our life because Idi Amin used these young people that were well-trained, and I could see that they could pop off without too much difficulty.

02:55:16 - 02:56:13

And we said, “What are we gonna do?” And I said, “Well, the only thing we can do is back up slowly and get out of here.” And we did that, and when we got a little bit down the road away from the military outpost, and that’s what it was, we stopped and got ourselves back on an even keel from the excitement of that situation. But going out into the country, onto the farms, seeing the use of Ankole cattle, which Watusis are similar to the Ankoles, those were neat things. Seeing some of the special diseases, the parasitic diseases that occur in that country, those are their choice experience, they add to the chip microchips.

02:56:14 - 02:56:17

How important should science and research be to zoos?

02:56:17 - 02:56:20

Should they be doing more in this regard?

02:56:20 - 02:57:29

Well, I don’t think that they could or should do anything less than they should be doing more. I think that if zoos are going to exist in the modern world, they’ve got to apply scientific principles to the care management of people, and that includes the sciences associated with medicine. And there is a lot of factual objective material that’s available nowadays. And that should be encouraged. As far as research is concerned, that’s a matter of money or giving time and resources to doing that. There are some zoos like the Conservation Society of New York and the San Diego Global Program, where they’ve got departments research. You can only say rah rah. But it takes money to do this.

02:57:29 - 02:59:14

And some institutions have good people, or get donations. The San Diego zoo and the New York Zoological Conservation Society are premier in this. But a zoos can do research, not necessarily invasive veterinary research, but certainly invasive veterinary related research. And anything that enhances the life of an animal, whether it be it’s proper nutrition or improvement in reproductive performance, these things are research as long as they are following a protocol, in other words, the research principles of delineating what you wanna find out about, then testing it and getting the results and then reporting it. These are important things, and so just the behavioral observations of keepers with animals, and having time to do that behavioral work, to train animals, having resource to train animals, these contribute to conservation because it may enhance the life of an animal so that we don’t have to acquire those animals from the wild, in many cases now we can’t acquire them from the wild. And so we’ve got to do everything we can to improve reproductive performance. And that comes about by research. During your career, what…

02:59:14 - 02:59:22

We talked about with tranquilization with drugs, during your career, what would you consider the major events that affected animal care?

02:59:22 - 03:01:03

We’ve talked about one, which was a new drugs on the market. I think that the important things that have transpired cover a broad range of situations, the improved husbandry practice, the improved nutrition, we’ve got nutritionists on the staff of many zoos. And one time the veterinarian was the nth degree of importance in terms of feeding these animals. Now we’ve got people that have a good sound nutritional background, sometimes coming from the domestic animal field, but adapting it quite well to zoos. So I think that’s an important milestone that’s contributed to animal care. And we’ve got other things, as far as medicine is concerned, I’ve mentioned improved diagnostic techniques, the use of blood, both hematology and clinical biochemistry, and also the use of serologic tests and other things that… Even DNA technology is now being used by many zoos, both large and small, and having access to good laboratory procedures is I think an important part of improving animal care. New technologies, such as ultrasound, CT scans.

03:01:05 - 03:02:34

We were visiting with Dr. Meehan last night, the excitement that is engendered by having access to some of these newer technologies is just astounding. And I could only hope that that will continue enlarge, improve. And the fact that we can call upon that technology is important. That entails that administrators will allow the anesthesiology or the anesthesia of animals to do the things that are necessary in terms of getting blood samples or the other things. And along this line, the training of animals to allow some of these procedures is extremely important. There were frustrating times as a veterinarian. The frustrating times as a veterinarian in the zoo have been at my ineptness or lack of being able to utilize some of these technologies, some of which I knew about, but didn’t have the ability to do it. You may be aware that the Sacramento Zoo now has a new hospital.

03:02:34 - 03:04:25

We didn’t have that when I was there, but now it’s an excellent facility, and the technology is there. But the frustrating thing for me was to have all the facilities that the university offered, but not available to me when I needed it at the zoo. And to take the animals to the zoo, the episodes that we’ve talked about trying to hurry to get animals to the zoo or to the university are just to numerous dimension, really. But that was the frustrating thing. An the other frustrating thing was the fact that there weren’t facilities built into the zoo to accommodate a sick animal. Didn’t have to be a hospital, but somewhere or an animal could be isolated either by itself or with a compadre those just weren’t in existence. We had to treat the animal, either actually hospitalized it at the university or treat it in the field. And we certainly did a lot of that, we did surgery in the field, in the zoo within the zoo, but I think that it’s incumbent on zoos in this day and time with all the new enclosures that are being held or being built, that that sort of facility needs to be built in, and with multiple species exhibits, I think that it’s important to somebody to be looking at that.

03:04:25 - 03:05:28

And I think keepers need to be involved, curators need to be involved, the veterinarians need to be involved and not just architects. We have zoo management teams that come in now and design exhibits for zoos, and these are nice, but often these multiple species exhibits or expansive exhibits don’t have the facilities and animals are not trained to go into those facilities on a routine basis. That includes some of the squeeze cages for giraffe, for even elephants, we can talk about restraint devices of one sort or another, unless the animals are trained to use those facilities, they’re useless. 1972, you went to the San Diego Zoo to help develop a keeper training program and do some clinical work.

03:05:29 - 03:05:36

Could you tell us a little about that experience and how did they get you to come in to do this type of thing?

03:05:38 - 03:06:49

Well, I spent a time in the military in San Diego and it was a desirable place to go. I had the opportunity for a sabbatical leave, and I knew Chuck Sedgwick, who was at the San Diego zoo at that time. and also Lynn Greiner, who was a pathologist at the San Diego Zoo. And they had a research grant, a small research grant, that allowed me to come there. And so it was a kind of a mutual situation, I wanted to go there and I was given that opportunity. So I had a chance to really interrelate with the keepers, the keepers at that time at the San Diego Zoo, were a little bit unique because many of them were retired military people, they weren’t necessarily animal people. But some of those retired military people became very important. For instance, Marvin Jones was retired military, or he had been in the military for considerable period of time so that…

03:06:51 - 03:07:22

But they also needed to learn some things. And yet those that really adapted to it and did learn about their animals could offer me something. I was able to use my photographic prowess that I had at that point in time to document some of these things. And I was in, again, a teacher. Talking about animals now.

03:07:22 - 03:07:25

That isn’t what we’ve been talking about?

03:07:25 - 03:07:26

But specifically.

03:07:26 - 03:07:32

What was the most significant change that you implemented in the care of animals that you did?

03:07:39 - 03:09:19

Well, I think the most influential things that I was able to see that effected animals was the publications that I was able to be involved with. I was not comfortable writer, but I felt the need for such information to the accumulated, so I set about to do it. So getting that information out in the book form was important. The other thing is I was instrumental in developing a residency program, and it was the first one in any university setting for developing zoo veterinarians for about 10 years. And so contributing other people or to contributing people who contributed elsewhere was an important thing is my estimation. And then I also was also on the ground floor in developing the specialty, which is again, another instructional situation with people that were willing to extend themselves just a little bit more to learn more about the job that they were supposed to be doing anyway. So those things were the contributions that I was able to implement. And you mentioned the education.

03:09:20 - 03:09:26

What prompted you to feel the need to write your book on restraint?

03:09:28 - 03:10:45

Well, when I wrote that I had just started working with wild animals. I had already learned how to do restraint, (coughs) excuse me, of domestic animals, and I knew that there was that need for domestic animal restraint. And obviously the first thing that I really had to be involved with, with wild animals is how, as Oliver Graham Jones mentioned, first, you have to catch your tiger. And sometimes that’s a little bit of a chore. So restraint then became paramount in my whole life. And I figured that if I needed to do it, and then I could see that other people needed to do it too, that maybe I could contribute that way. I didn’t look at it as a contribution to the time, I essentially looked at it as a vehicle for teaching my students. And some of the first books that I wrote, people thought that they, there wasn’t very much call for that and they wouldn’t publish enough of ’em.

03:10:45 - 03:11:03

And I thought, well, all I want is for my students, but eventually some of these books became used worldwide. And that was a thrill, that was not the impetus for doing it, but it was the result of doing it.

03:11:05 - 03:11:13

How difficult was it to work with anesthesia in animals in the wild as compared to in captivity?

03:11:14 - 03:11:17

Or was there any difference?

03:11:17 - 03:13:06

Well, it’s interesting to look at the use of anesthesia, not as a separate entity, but in common with immobilization. And immobilization is necessary for studying individual animals and general, dealing with diseases and so forth for both free ranging animals and captive animals. But I guess one of the things is in addition to immobilization and the use of drugs for (clears throat) bringing that about, we learned something about true anesthesia, where we use either continuation of drugs, but are given intravenously or with inhalation anesthesia. One of the things that we had to do was learn how to intubate animals. And now I was able to be faced with passing a stomach tube or an endotracheal tube in this animal, like a shrew or an elephant. And we do both. And we learned anatomy and I learned anatomy by dissecting animals that died for other reasons, and knowing how we could reach the trachea. So that was a contribution that not only me, but others made in the field.

03:13:06 - 03:14:39

And I guess I have utilized my colleagues maybe from a plagiaristic standpoint, more than other people have, but I haven’t been reticent to employ the information that I have gained from colleagues in furthering the profession, in furthering the life of animals, doing good things for the animals, so that we just did what we needed to do with anesthesia. In addition, we learned, I had a graduate student that did a lot of work with inhalation anesthesia, and species. We reported on information that we had gathered, we used the world literature. And that’s another important thing is we learned earlier in the course of things that we weren’t the only people that were doing this work, the Germans have been doing quite a bit of work. In fact, the first book on zoo animal medicine was a German book written in the German language. It was subsequently translated into English, and it came out just prior to the first publication of zoo and wild animal medicine. And so we look to other countries for that help.

03:14:40 - 03:14:44

You mentioned anesthesia, can you relate the polar bear story?

03:14:46 - 03:16:06

How important it is to know your- Well, that was in a mobilization situation, and there are slight differences between a mobilization and anesthesia. But in that particular case, I was utilizing phencyclidine again, and I injected a polar bear that was on exhibit, and the reason it was on exhibit is it wouldn’t go inside. But I needed to look at this animal more closely. And I think all of us that are involved with zoos know that the polar bear is the most dangerous animal in a zoo. The one that we would least likely encounter without a barrier between him and me. But so I injected this animal and got a good shot at it, felt comfortable about it, but immediately the polar bear went into a corner and acted like it was immobilized. Well only Marlin Perkins had animals that went to that quickly into a mobilization, but the real world told us that it takes time. Even if you get an intravenous injection, which you don’t usually get on a dart.

03:16:06 - 03:17:30

So I was concerned about that, I got a long pole and we tried to poke it to see if it was responding. We got up on top of the exhibit and used a piece of electrical conduit to touch it, no response whatsoever. So somebody was looking out for me and I decided I’m gonna give it another injection, which I did. After a period of time, I then decided, okay, I think that I’ll go in and check it out, which I did remove both the syringes, and the first dart had not discharged. So that animal had not received any immobilizing agent until a second dart. And had I gone in with that animal in the original situation I would have been toast. So as I say, somebody was looking out for me. But that’s part of the medicine, we talked about science, but there’s also an art associated with this, and some of that art comes with experience, some of it comes from understanding basic principles, and then applying those basic principles and luck.

03:17:32 - 03:18:29

Luck is not a very major factor involved, it’s usually a lack of knowledge or something like that that gets us into trouble. But we also have support, and our keepers again, knowing the behavior of these animals can frequently let us know, okay, this animal does look like it’s a mobilized or doesn’t again, the veterinarian is deity relative to this. And keepers often would be the ones that would inject the animals if they had better access to the animal. But the thing that we had to be very careful of is that we didn’t destroy the rapport that keepers had with their charges, if you will. And so we didn’t ask them to do things that would hurt the animal and destroy their rapport with the animal.

03:18:29 - 03:18:32

Did you ever bring animals home to take care of them?

03:18:32 - 03:19:43

(laughs) Yeah, I’ve brought animals home to take care of them. I’ve have had chimpanzees, I’ve had macaques, I had skunks, baby skunks, baby raccoons. Kind of one of the neat things is that our children always wanted to have a pet monkey. So I had an opportunity to bring a macaque, an infant macaque, not an infant, that was a juvenile that it was I’d been hand-raised. And I had an occasion to bring it home to look more closely at it over the weekend. And in the process of a day or two, this animal had piddled on each of the children, he had also pulled the tablecloth off a table and pulled all the china off of it and scratched the children. And after that, I didn’t have any requests for a pet monkey in the family. So that was a good one.

03:19:43 - 03:20:19

But I’ve had others that have come into the home. In fact, fairly recently, while I was gone, a colleague, not a colleague, a client brought a camel and unloaded it in my front yard. And since I wasn’t home, but it congregated the neighbors and they all came over and took care of it, and you know, touched it and all of the things that I do with a strange animal, and it was a kind of a neat thing.

03:20:21 - 03:20:28

We kind of touched on this a little, are zoos today doing enough to manage their animal collections regarding medical husbandry?

03:20:31 - 03:22:00

I think the zoos are doing as much as they can. All these institutions have money problems, and doing things for the animal is I think pretty high on the priority list for most zoo administrations, they know that they’ve got a lot invested in these animals. And certainly there is an animal rights protection emphasis on these things. The public is an educated public nowadays, and they recognize when things are not right. So zoo administrators are rightfully paying attention to these. We even put up signs is saying that so-and-so has got a sore on its leg, we’re treating that sore on we’re giving an opportunity to stay with its cage mates, because it might be more healthy in that situation that would be hospitalized. And for the tiger that we amputated leg on, we had a permanent sign, you know, stating what had happened, why we did it. Many times zoos don’t want to exhibit imperfect animals such as a three legged tiger.

03:22:00 - 03:22:17

But when you explain to them, we had a choice of either letting it die or killing it ourselves, or doing that surgery, we prolonged the life of the animal, it’s living a good life, it’s producing, it’s getting along just fine.

03:22:18 - 03:22:26

Do you have any particular animals or family of animals that you prefer to work with and why?

03:22:28 - 03:23:25

I don’t wanna say favorites but- You know, it’s a fair enough question to know which animals kind of receive your emphasis. And I wrote it out a biography entitled Hummingbirds to Elephants, and I’ve done just that, I’ve dealt with hummingbirds, with fractures and elephants with bad tusks and so forth. And it depends on the period of time in my career that I would have differences. First, I was dealing with all kinds of animals. And then as we got some faculty people on, they were more concerned about birds. And my emphasis decreased with birds. And reptiles was the same way. We got students in our residents in that weren’t particularly interested.

03:23:25 - 03:25:03

For instance, we had a resident that was interested in the ratites when ostriches and emus became extremely popular in the private sector, this fellow really got enthralled with those animals and essentially took over that part of the practice. In later years, I drifted to handling more of the large animal, the mega vertebrates, as we would call them. And ultimately the emphasis has been on camelids and elephants. And I enjoy them, but they’re not necessarily my favorite animal, I just don’t have a favorite. Because I started out in the business with the attitude that all animals deserve attention, and then when I could see that somebody else was giving that attention to another species, then I could move to a different area. Like I said, in general, I’ve worked in various facets, not only a veterinarian medicine in general, but in the zoo circumstances itself. And I have contended that I would work in an area until I found out that my clientele or patients found out that I didn’t know what I was talking about, I’d move to another area.

03:25:05 - 03:25:17

When you were doing your work at Sacramento Zoo, did you make use of a medical committee of other experts, or did you already have them at your disposal in the university setting?

03:25:17 - 03:26:19

Well, in the university setting, there is a animal use committee and they have to be involved in decisions for research appropriateness, this sort of thing. In most zoos that I dealt with, there may have been a veterinary committee, but we didn’t have one at the Sacramento Zoo for whatever reason. But I was able to utilize resources, both colleagues in the university, of course, we had all different disciplines of heart, skin, intestinal tract, all of these things in orthopedics. And so I used those resources, they were available to me, and I used human resources as well. And I could only encourage that for any zoo veterinarian to do. You officially retired from the University of California in 1991, but you hardly have stopped working.

03:26:21 - 03:26:29

How did you remain involved and what did retirement allow you to do freeing you up for those daily things?

03:26:29 - 03:27:42

Well, the most important thing that retirement did for me was it did away with having to attend committee meetings so that I could do what I wanted to do, and that was continue being concerned about animals. And I kept those interests going by continuing to read. I was writing, I still write, I edit. So I keep current on that. And it requires that we keep the current literature available. We are still active in the various organizations that promote zoological medicine, and I just still interrelate with the people. And that’s really the greatest joy that I have is that interrelationship. You did start out as an excellent student, as you’ve said to us in school, but you sure changed that and turned that around.

03:27:45 - 03:27:50

What was the epiphany that you knew you needed to move forward?

03:27:50 - 03:29:35

Well, the epiphany was of changing from a poor to mediocre student was maturity for one thing. I think that current students, particularly young man start college life with, “I’m gonna party.” They were either more interested in girls or interested in cars, and they literally botchered the first two years. As a result, they have a tough time getting their grade points up to the point where it’s acceptable to a veterinary school. On contrast, ladies are paying attention to their schoolwork and they get good grades right along and have a higher GPA than most young men that finished their undergraduate work. I think that it’s necessary for young men to grow up, I did the same thing, I went into the Navy instead of going to college directly out of high school, and that was an awakening. And then the realization that I really wanted to become a veterinarian occurred with my experience in medicine. And that was another apidamy that it took place. But by then I knew what I wanted to do, I knew what I had to do, I set goals and I didn’t really have challenges.

03:29:35 - 03:29:47

Although I had to work, I was never just I could get any grade I wanted to, I had to work, but I knew how to do that and I did.

03:29:47 - 03:29:49

Did you ever work in the race industry?

03:29:49 - 03:30:26

Yeah, not extensively. And actually it was after I got to the University of California that I started doing race horse work. I was a track veterinarian at the California State Fair for two or three years. And that was an interesting experience. I would sometimes go to the race track at Santa Anita and some of the big tracks down there, but I wasn’t actively involved in the race track there, just the horses in the barns and so forth.

03:30:29 - 03:30:32

Did you ever handle any high stakes horses?

03:30:32 - 03:32:28

Oh yeah, swaps. Actually when I was in practice, we did all kinds of things, and when I was at the university, we were aware of all of the big mucky mucks in the entertainment industry. And I have tickets to any of the big shows there because the owners were often a race horse people. And so Rex Ellsworth who had swaps, was an uncle of one of our students there, Casey Ellsworth. So I knew them, and I was approached, or wasn’t approached, I was actually coerced into doing surgery on a horse that was a high stakes foal that was born with a hernia. And I fixed that hernia and the owner was there and he said, “Have you ever done this before?” And I, without question said, yes, I didn’t tell him it was in a student surgery lab. But the thing is that horse went on to be a good horse, we hadn’t castrated, but we had fixed that hernia and close the inguinal canal so that the testicle didn’t descend. And so it meant that that animal essentially became a dangerous animal because those kinds of cryptorchid animals usually are.

03:32:28 - 03:32:55

And so I ultimately had to castrate the animal too, but that was just a fly by night on that one. Did the owners is hover over you when you were doing things. No, not really. They were mostly absentee owners so that the animals were… The people that hovered over us were ranch foremans and that sort of thing, some or pills, but that’s the way of the world. We’ll ease into my next question.

03:32:55 - 03:32:57

Are we rolling?

03:32:59 - 03:33:04

What made you a good veterinarian in your opinion?

03:33:04 - 03:34:14

In my opinion. Well, I think the fact that I was interested in all kinds of animals gave me an edge, and I felt that I needed to become first, a good veterinarian, and then somebody later on that branched out to another realm. But I felt that that was important. I liked clinical work. I liked being able to work with students and that increased my ability to become a better veterinarian because students are very critical and they often can stimulate you to do better things. So those are the kinds of things that allowed me to be a good veterinarian if that’s what you wanna call it.

03:34:14 - 03:34:22

What skillset qualities does the zoo veterinarian need today as compared to when you started?

03:34:24 - 03:35:40

Some of the basic principles are the same, they need to do that general veterinarian medicine first. When I started out, it was all physical restraint. So if they became good veterinarians in general, now the newer things that are necessary for them to become skilled is once they get out of school, they need to get some additional training. And as I’ve indicated before, that the first recommendation would be for them to work in a busy veterinary practice. Then they had to know something about chemical immobilization, in my estimation, they need to become biologically oriented. Our veterinary students don’t have to be biologists. Some of them come out, they don’t know what taxonomy is, they don’t know what evolution is, they just are not biologists. And I think that’s crucial for them to be a good zoo veterinarian.

03:35:43 - 03:35:50

Now you’re looking at this next question, maybe from a distance, but what would you say are the pros and cons of the new wave of the zoo directors?

03:35:50 - 03:35:56

A large number have more non-animal related background, such as business administration.

03:35:56 - 03:35:58

Do you have any opinion on that?

03:36:00 - 03:37:46

Zoo directors, particularly of large zoos have a major job running a big business. And as a result of that, we’re getting non-animal oriented people into the business, and that’s not bad as long as they surround themselves with good people that are animal oriented. And the thing that is my big hangup is that zoo directors, non-animal oriented zoo directors should not be the last word on medical matters, or even animal care. That to me is a curatorial responsibility and/or veterinary responsibility. I don’t think they need to have the total say so, but they need to have a voice in it. So they do need to be business administrators, they do need to be financial savvy people, that’s perfectly all right. But if they have surrounding them, those kinds of people, and they allow input from all the rank and file, not every person in the zoo, but they need to have some mechanism for input from all aspects of zoo medicine and curatorial activities. Now some number of zoo directors are veterinarians.

03:37:48 - 03:37:54

Is there an advantage or disadvantage to being a veterinarian and being a zoo director or is it just academic doesn’t matter?

03:37:54 - 03:39:04

Oh, well, I think it does matter because veterinarian may have been there the longest, and so for kind of senior people and they figure they got to put them in, but unless the veterinarian has some degree of administrative ability, not just… Or ability to get trained in administrative ability, they don’t have any business being a zoo veterinarian. But if they do that, if they do know how to have people skills and administrative skills, then being a veterinarian should not be a detriment to their carrying out their duties. And as you know, there are some that have been long time zoo veterinarians, Charlie Schroeder, and Lynne Gosling, and just numerous other people. Ted Reed, National Zoo, there are some that have bombed out, but by the same token, there are more that have done the job that was asked of them. But some of them, I had to learn it in situ, if you will, on the job.

03:39:06 - 03:39:15

Now, you’ve been around and seen zoos for a number of years, what would you say is the largest professional problem facing U.S. zoos today?

03:39:15 - 03:39:18

And is there something that might help correct it?

03:39:23 - 03:41:18

Well, I think the biggest professional problem is the ability to meet the needs of the public and the lack of financial abilities to accomplish that task in some situations. But I think the other thing is that in any aspect, whether it’s administrative finance, public relations and these sorts of things, they need to get trained. And I think one of the glaring deficiencies of many zoos is they don’t pay enough attention to public relations. And they’re been hammered on by animal rights people to the point that they are gun shy of talking to reporters, to having people come in and look at them, and they need to learn how to put their best foot forward and let the public know what they’re doing for the care of the animals for conservation. The public doesn’t really want to know about research, but by the same token, there are things that are happening as a result of what we can call investigations, and not use the term research because that’s a four letter word in some people’s minds. But in fact, our own zoo has a deal… In fact, ACA at one time had a policy that invasive research in zoos was not permitted. Well, there are lots of research projects that are not invasive that can be included.

03:41:18 - 03:41:46

So I think that the biggest professional lack, if you will, is lack of public relations, putting the word out, “Hey, we’re here, we’re doing good things for this community,” and do it continually, not just a one-shot deal. Now you are the official historian for the zoo veterinarians association.

03:41:46 - 03:42:02

Can you give me in a brief manner, maybe outline the progression of veterinary medicine in U.S. zoos, clinical, I guess, as well as scientific, but certainly in the last couple of decades, how has this organization and zoo medicine moved forward?

03:42:05 - 03:43:23

Well, there are several milestones that might be considered in the progression of zoos in a modern era. And there, some of them are medically oriented, some of them are not, some are the improvements in just routine husbandry practices, certainly in nutrition, this is the case. But just kind of thinking about the veterinary profession itself, the first thing that happened was that these early veterinarians had no access to literature, they had to gain that experience themselves. And so gaining that experience was necessary. Then the next important thing was to share that experience. They did this through organized veterinary associations and so forth, both wild animals and general veterinary medicine. Then the other major milestone is the development of capturing restraint agents and the methods of getting those in to the animals. Then publications became another milestone, access to literature, bringing it to the foreground.

03:43:23 - 03:44:49

And actually Patricia O’Connor, who is a well-known person at Staten Island and other places, I don’t know you remember her or not, but she is… She does a lot by producing a bibliography of mammals and birds in the early 1950s. That was a seminal publication, and yet it wasn’t all accessible to many zoo veterinarians. So the German publication and zoo wild animal medicine and subsequent monographs on certain species of animals and continued additions of zoo and wild animal medicine. And these books or another milestone. And they’re used all over the world. I can go to a zoo and one of the first things that the zoo veterinarians will do, will pull these books off the shelf and say, “This is my Bible.” And that is a source of pride, not because the zoo and wild animal medicine, wasn’t all authored by me, it’s an edited publication that have a lot of people inputting it. And we were talking about Eddie Oliver- Eddie Almodovar.

03:44:49 - 03:46:02

Almodovar, he was an author in the first edition of that book on reptiles and the reptile section. I found out a lot just being the editor of that, that there were many people that had knowledge, but couldn’t write. And I contended that I probably wrote about two thirds of that book by rewriting the material that was submitted by other authors. Currently, we’ve got tremendous input into that. And the eighth edition, Eric Miller and I have just completed the editorial process of that, it’s in the hands of the publishers now. There are 90 different authors, all of whom are new to this book. And about a third of them are from other countries, another milestone. And then another milestone is the training programs that were developed to help people become more proficient at working in zoos with zoo animals.

03:46:05 - 03:46:08

Now you’ve seen people come to the zoo over the years.

03:46:08 - 03:46:13

In your opinion, you think the type of people coming to the zoos has changed?

03:46:13 - 03:46:18

Are they more aware of animal welfare or are they in the same?

03:46:18 - 03:47:41

Well, I don’t think they’re the same. I think that the difference between older zoo patrons and newer ones is their ability to get information. The internet has been important to them, some of the documentaries, some of the animal planet type of experiences gives them an edge up. They know animals, not all of them, but the youth do and they’re coming online. And one of the kind of a fun things was that I was standing behind a mother and a seven or eight-year-old child in front of a cheetah enclosure. And the mother exclaimed, “Oh, isn’t that a beautiful leopard.” And the child said, “Mother, that is not a leopard it’s cheetah, and it can run 70 miles an hour.” And this is the kind of the category of the people that are coming to zoos now. They can either perceive or think they perceive abuses that are occurring or lack of animal wellbeing, and they are not reticent about stating that fact. So public perception by more knowledgeable people are some of them.

03:47:41 - 03:48:27

I think still the common or the most likely person to be at the zoo is a mother with some children, either pushing a primulator, or some of the fancy strollers that they have nowadays, or two or three children until they’re still, but have them get up to a situation where a new tiger cub is being exhibited and has a cubbyhole with plate glass or a child can get up and almost can’t touch the animal, but can essentially see it right up close. Those still bring a thrill to my mind.

03:48:28 - 03:48:35

Do you see a realistic role in assisted reproductive techniques in retaining endangered species?

03:48:35 - 03:48:45

And could you kind of comment on the following, the AIEI, the ET, the semen sexing, and the kind of rank of importance, if there is one?

03:48:49 - 03:50:06

The use of enhanced reproductive technology is an absolute must for current zoo maintaining their abilities to exhibit animals. This is where a good amount of research has been done and is being done. It’s not the answer, neither is replacing animals from a zoo into the wild. Although that has been successful in certain situations. I’ve been privileged to see the animals in the Brazilian rainforest with the golden lion tamarin that were taken back there, some significant medical problems that were associated with that, but to see that animal in the wild and it had come from your zoo, and that has happened to me with some animals that we contributed to that program is just a special situation. I’ve lost my train of thought relative to that. You were talking about AI and ET. Okay.

03:50:13 - 03:52:16

Scientific knowledge is important for scientific mileage itself and knowledge itself, but for zoos, I think it’s important to consider the fact that it may or may not be viable. We find certain things, for instance, we’re doing embryo transfer work on a lot of species of animals, artificial insemination on some species and their centers of this certain zoos, the national zoo has been involved in that, the zoo in Columbus, or not Ohio but Missouri, and in Springfield, the university there, San Diego zoo, these are places that have specialized in this and they’re doing great things. But embryo transfer may be an important thing in the future in being able to transport animals across country lines without all the fault or all that’s concerned with disease transmission and this sort of thing. Learning more about the really productive cycles of these animals is important. For instance, the seminal work that was done on elephants on the Eastern cycle was tremendous. That was done by a zoo with the Portland zoo, being the program. And they did this project for over five years, but they found out that it isn’t like most other mammals. We’ve had a lot of work done with camelids, the embryo transfer work, and the artificial insemination techniques have been marvelous.

03:52:16 - 03:53:42

The work was been done with camels has enhanced good animals. Embryonic transfer an artificial insemination is a way of enhancing the reproductive, or productivity of superior animals. And that’s, I think important. For instance, this meeting that was held just last week, I had Australian people and there is a veterinarian there by the name of Jane Vaughan, who has a business of doing embryo transfers. And it’s been very successful. It hasn’t been as successful here in the United States, technologies then, but again, the research that was done to determine not the Easter cycle, because camelids don’t have an Easter cycle it’s different, it’s called a follicular cycle, and that was necessary before some of these other technologies could be incorporated and used. There’s still much to be done in this regard, so artificial insemination has been more successful, semen evaluation, and a lot of species people, the National Zoo, there’s a girl there that specialized it. Steve Sager, who some of you may know was a veterinarian.

03:53:44 - 03:54:21

He probably has done more for male reproduction research than anybody else. He’s now, and I think he’s still at it, is doing work with human male reproduction challenges, but those works need to continue. And they don’t all have to have direct application that’s necessary to build a body of information about reproduction in general, and zoos have a part to play in that.

03:54:21 - 03:54:24

Where do you see animal care going in the future?

03:54:26 - 03:54:28

How do you see it progressing?

03:54:28 - 03:54:32

Are there any more milestones that need to be reached?

03:54:34 - 03:55:38

Well, I think the biggest milestone that needs to be reached in zoos as far as animal care is concerned, is a greater knowledge of the nutrient requirements of these animals and our ability learning how to feed them properly, because there’s still species of animals that are not fed correctly. And we’re past the cafeteria feeding where we would give them all kinds of foods to eat and hope that they choose the right thing. They don’t do it any more than you or I would, if we go into a restaurant, and we’ve got ice cream facing us, and there’s also baked beans there, we’ll I know what I would pick. And so there’s that need for nutrition. Otherwise, I think we’re heading in the right direction. I don’t see any milestones that are necessary.

03:55:38 - 03:55:42

Any advice for the next generation of veterinarians?

03:55:47 - 03:57:07

Other than what we’ve chatted about already is go into veterinary zoo medicine as a member of a team, don’t go in with the attitude that all information on the medical aspects of zoo animals is my province, and nobody else should interfere with that. If they have a knowledge and a realization that people skills are extremely important. And when veterinarians and keepers are at loggerheads with each other, it’s not because… Well, it is because they don’t communicate with each other and that needs to change. And it needs to change with the abilities, or sometimes even almost forcing them to visit, to be in the same meetings, to talk and be asked questions, to answer questions that have been posed by other people in an open setting, not through emails.

03:57:07 - 03:57:15

Well, you mentioned curators, so constant complaint from zoo directors, is there are too few good curators in the zoo community today?

03:57:15 - 03:57:23

As a veterinarian you’ve worked with quite a few curators, what do you think are the top qualities curators should have today?

03:57:25 - 03:59:07

I think curator must have a sound understanding of the biology of the animals that they’re curating. And they need to also have people skills. And I’ve harped on that throughout this interview with the need for people skills, because each of us have our wants and needs and our hopes and aspirations, and these all need to be addressed in some manner. But that curator is a professional position that is really looking out for the well-being of an animal. And just as everybody in the zoo should be concerned about animal welfare, the curators need that if they have college training, that’s a plus, but they also need to get some experience. And don’t come into the zoo world with the idea that I’ve got a college degree in biology, and I know what the they need. I’m reminded I was visiting the Berlin zoo and they just hired a new ornithologist to be the curator of birds. This girl had graduated as a PhD in ornithology, but the person that was the keeper, the head keeper in the bird division had been working for the zoo for 40 years, and her daddy had worked at the zoo for umpteen years before that.

03:59:07 - 04:00:16

And this girl came in, “I’m the answer to all your problems, yeah, I’m the answer to your problems.” But she just came in too fast, too strong. I’m reminded that in the military, the captain, the first person that a captain should cultivate in terms of material to do things is to watch what the first sergeant is doing and then learn from them and go from there. And that’s the same thing that curators have to do. But I think the most critical thing as far as curators is concerned is administrative situation, and that I think that curators are undervalued and underpaid. And if you can improve that and give them greater stature in a zoo, they’re gonna be inspired to do better things, but if they don’t have people skills they’re gonna be in successful.

04:00:17 - 04:00:25

Now, is it possible all to define territories and responsibilities to avoid conflict between zoo vets and curators?

04:00:25 - 04:00:28

I mean, who should have the final say when it comes to animal welfare?

04:00:30 - 04:01:43

I don’t think there is one person in the zoo that should have just a final say. And I’ve seen veterinarians that have been fired from their position because their stance on a welfare issue. I’ve seen other veterinarians that have worked as part of the team being concerned about it. I don’t agree with the term territory. I know it’s there, I know there are conflicts, but I think that it’s necessary for a team work approach. And if people come in, “Okay, I’m the avian head keeper, or I’m the avian curator, I have the last word on everything to do with birds.” There’s gonna be conflict there because they’re not, they may not have the final say so from a financial standpoint, they may certainly not have it in from a medical standpoint. There has to be some mechanism where they have to talk to each other and listen to each other.

04:01:43 - 04:01:52

Were there issues that caused you concern during your career in the zoo field and how do you see the future regarding these concerns?

04:01:52 - 04:03:07

I think one of the things that caused me concern was the lack of these facilities for isolating animals, for recuperation from disease. And well, I’ve chatted about that a little bit, but it can’t be stressed too much. And I think that speaking for one who experienced it, the need for us hospital was separate isolation facilities or for quarantine are crucial factors. And I think zoos need to face up to the fact that that has to be a line item on a budget and ought to be a high priority, as far as another exhibit or something else. There needs to be a hospital with some of those facilities being available. The zoo used to be a man’s world. The arrival of full-time veterinarians coincide with the increase of women in the veterinary medicine field.

04:03:07 - 04:03:11

Touchy subject, but your honest opinion on the gender issue, if there is one?

04:03:12 - 04:05:02

I think there’s definite issue and zoos traditionally have been a good old boys clubs situation. And I’ve had keepers, female keepers come back from a conference where some hot shot elephant person said, “You don’t know anything about elephants, go back and get some dry behind the ears before you speak out in a meeting.” And I think that good old boy mentality needs to be done away with. In terms of veterinary medicine, women are just as capable as men. I do think however, that zoos need to take cognizant of the fact that allowances have to be made for family situations. And even veterinarians complain that, you know, they wanna stop to have children, or they want a part-time work and this sort of thing, and having a family is an important part of the life. And I’m very much not in favor of being so devoted to veterinary medicine or to the zoo that you don’t have a balance in your life is wrong. I think people need to be able to have time for recreation. They need to have time for going to the theater, be involved in church activities and these sorts of things that give them a broader approach to life and actually helps to improve their ability to deal with people’s skills and these sorts of things.

04:05:03 - 04:05:20

Anybody that spends, “I’m the veterinarian, I’m saving all these animals,” they’re gonna burn out, they can’t keep with it throughout their lives. And I feel sorry for those people because there’s more to life than zoo medicine.

04:05:21 - 04:05:32

With the move to naturalistic exhibits and keeping animals more natural groups, where possible did veterinary care help or hinder these changes?

04:05:32 - 04:06:43

Well, veterinary care of animals in naturalistic big enclosures was hindered because access to the animals. And so in order to correct that, and I’m all for the naturalistic exhibits, but animals, again, there needs to be a place where these animals can be isolated for medical purposes or for transporting purposes or this sort of thing. And then the animals need to be trained to go into it. It’s a combined situation, to go out onto an enclosure with a group of animals, not necessarily extremely aggressive, but by going into that, anybody that’s been in the business very long and has done it will find you go in with a weapon or any kind of a dark piece of equipment you cause pandemonium to break out, that’s difficult. And so unless those animals can be isolated, there’s gonna be challenges. But that can be done with proper exhibit design.

04:06:46 - 04:06:52

From the veterinarian’s point of view, what’s your view regarding zoos maintaining elephants?

04:06:54 - 04:09:26

I think elephants have a place in selected zoos. There certainly is no hesitation to recommend that if a zoo is willing to devote the financial resources, the facilities resources, and the personnel to zoo elephant care, there ought to be open options to do that. It requires cooperation from zoo administrative staff, and I think that to do it without formal training of those elephant keepers, and then the practical apprenticeship, if you will, are very important. And the places that I’ve seen where elephants are really integrated into the program are places where selected individuals, who by their own selection have devoted their careers to elephant care are successful. And whether you’re in a protected contact situation, which most zoos are working toward, or are in already, you can accomplish any of those things in any system, whether it be free contact or protective contact. And I feel that elephants have a place in society, I think that they have a place in circuses, and elephants are not being abused, we’re taking cognizant of their need for certain things like exercise, but I’m not in favor of forcing an elephant to walk 20 miles a day ’cause they don’t do that in the wild unless they have to for food. So we need to work at a normal social interaction with herds of elephants, and that’s a real challenge in this day in time, we have elephant groups where they’re incompatible and will remain incompatible essentially throughout their lives. And those facilities that have bull elephants, you’ve got to know how to manage them separate from the females because that’s the way they live in a biological matriarchal order.

04:09:26 - 04:09:42

So I’m all for elephants, but I’m also cognizant as it takes a certain mentality on the person that’s caring for them, and the administration’s attitude to elephant care.

04:09:44 - 04:09:55

Are there any procedures that you would have implemented during your time at the zoo that did not happen, that you would have liked to have happened?

04:10:01 - 04:11:48

Well, I would have liked to have had a hospital when I was there, but that’s there now. I can’t really think of anything that I was denied, I think the thing that I would like to have done is do a better job myself under certain episodes or response to it. But I think that’s part of the practice or the art of veterinary medicine. And I don’t have any regrets relative to that, certainly there’s sadness as certain with the situation when you dart an animal and you hit it in the wrong place and it results in the death of the animal, that’s something that you’d like to have changed, but that’s gone down the tubes and you have to move on from it. Sometimes those sorts of experiences have caused veterinarians to go down the tubes. But I admire some veterinarians that have lived, and the veterinarian at the Shedd Aquarium that was involved in the treatment of the, what was it belugas that were given an anthelmintic, and two or three of them died as a result of overdose. But the thing that a lot of people don’t know that that person had tried to get the proper dose and he was given some advice was incorrect. And so he was using a dose that was calculated for lambs and not for the other animals.

04:11:48 - 04:13:01

And there are some incompatibilities shown up. Lee Simmons had an experience in his zoo at one time when they administered thiabendazole and a warming situation to their tigers. And he lost seven of them. But they found out after quite few months that there had been access through a gardener of organic phosphate insecticides. And there is a synergism between thiabendazole and organic phosphates that had them die, not a thiabendazole poisoning, but of the insecticide poisoning. So they’re tragedies that have occurred that you wish you’d done better, but there other mistakes we’re just dumb, others you didn’t necessarily have a control, but sometimes you’re castigated or your reputation is garnished by the things that you did or didn’t do.

04:13:02 - 04:13:04

Do we still need zoos today?

04:13:04 - 04:13:49

Sure, there is no question about that. I think that zoos are part of society, they have been in one form or another since the year dot, and those that want to do away with animals in captivity are not in my camp. I think that good zoos, and we have a lot of work to do to improve them, there are good zoos, there are bad zoos, there are no zoos that don’t have poor exhibits in them, there are no zoos that have the best exhibits. So there’s room for wiggle, if you will, and all can improve.

04:13:50 - 04:13:57

What do you know about the profession that you’ve devoted so many years of your life to, this veterinary field?

04:14:00 - 04:15:18

Well, I know a lot about the veterinary profession. From a standpoint of specifics, I don’t know enough, but from the standpoint of the historical aspects of the American Veterinary Medical Association is working on 150-year celebration this year. And there are articles about people that have contributed to that situation. I have been involved with the development of zoological medicine since inception. That is a term that I coined to include the veterinary matters of all animals. And it includes both wild and domestic. Now that’s not saying that I know everything about all animals, or that any zoo veterinarian does, but it’s it’s needed. And zoos are part of our social structure, a love of animals and children need that, and adults need it as a valve from everyday life for enjoyment, for recreation, for education.

04:15:18 - 04:15:29

And if nothing else, zoos need to improve on their educational devotion, if you will, from their animal collection in the realm.

04:15:29 - 04:15:31

How would you like to be remembered?

04:15:37 - 04:16:48

That’s an interesting question. And I’ve talked to my wife about this, and I made the statement that I would like to be remembered as a teacher who wanted to share information on animals, both in the written and the oral form. But she talked to me and said, “There needs to be something more there.” And we talked about various aspects of it. And so at the end result, I guess I would like to be remembered as a capable veterinarian with an interest in a broad range of different species of animals, and as a teacher, with it a desire to share in the written and oral form as much as information that I have. Thank you, Dr. Fowler, very much appreciated It’s my pleasure to have the opportunity.

About Murray E. Fowler, DVM

Murray E. Fowler, DVM
In Memoriam
Jan 1, 1928 - May 18, 2014
Download Curricula Vitae


University of California, Davis: Davis, California

Emeritus Professor of Zoological Medicine

The first patient that Dr. Murray Fowler treated as a veterinarian was a camel, and that was on the set of a movie called The Ten Commandments which was directed by the famous C.B. DeMille. Murray Fowler grew up on a small farm in Utah. A degree in Animal Husbandry at Utah State University preceded his professional DVM degree from Iowa State University.

Three years were spent in a horse practice in Southern California prior to joining the faculty of the Veterinary School at the University of California, Davis in 1958. After 10 years of teaching in the area of large animal medicine and surgery, he was asked to develop a program in Zoological Medicine (captive, free-ranging and privately owned wild animals), the first of its kind anywhere in the world. He was the Veterinarian for the Sacramento, California Zoo for 35 years. He was an editor, author or co-author of 19 books and 217 professional papers.

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The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the Zoo & Aquarium Video Archive or those acting under their authority.