Friday, November 24, 2017
Travel

New attraction lets you see Busch Gardens' vets at work

RECOMMENDED READING


TAMPA – Busch Gardens is moving its animal hospital from off stage to center stage with up close views.

"We designed it so people feel like they are right in the operating room with us," said Mike Burton, a 15-year vet of the theme park who toured the few zoos that pioneered the idea before Busch forked out $5 million to build its own.

Most days visitors will see a parade of animals getting 30 to 60 minute physicals or preventive treatments like a sloth getting his innards checked by ultrasound, a hedgehog in for dental work or a flamingo whose chapped feet are treated with a cold laser. But you could also happen upon an animal undergoing surgery like the kangaroo that just had a lung operation.

"You just don't know what's going to happen," General Manager Jim Dean said Thursday as crews put the finishing touches on the Animal Care Facility that opens Jan. 23.

The size of a CVS drug store, the layout sports floor-to ceiling windows on treatment and surgery rooms. Plus close up cameras in the operating room lamps and ceilings take visitors right into the action on big screen TV. Park veterinarians can be miked for sound. There are also cameras built in to the X-ray room, lab microscopes and endoscopy probes that get into stomachs.

The surgery table can handle critters that weigh up to a ton.

Inspired by a similar glassed-in facility in a rural Australian animal park, the center quadruples the space where Busch vets treat and monitor the health of 2,000 animals across 300 species. Busch also borrowed ideas from smaller zoo hospitals with open viewing in Cleveland and St. Louis.

"We will alert the squeamish if there is going to be blood," said Peter Black, senior vet. "But it's going to be hard to get in if we are operating on a tiger (because of crowds). The surgery would take hours."

The facility also uses interactive exhibits as a learning tool. Free take-home cards explaining veterinary procedures come imprinted with QR codes that lead the curious to a webpage with more information on various animals.

There's also demonstrations of Busch animal meal preparation in a kitchen outfitted like a Food Network set. Tables are set up for visitors to help chop and dish up portions for about a fifth of the park's daily rations.

"This facility is the new state of the art," said Jack Hanna, a former Columbus Zoo director whose syndicated TV animal series is based at Busch Gardens. "In the next six months, hundreds of zoo vets will travel here to see it."

Mark Albright can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8252.

Comments
Florida’s iconic offshore Stiltsville survived another hurricane season

Florida’s iconic offshore Stiltsville survived another hurricane season

MIAMI — Stiltsville, a stubborn relic of Miami’s less-glitzy past as a sun-soaked outpost, has survived Hurricane Irma’s brutal winds and waves, much to the surprise of the landmark’s caretakers and fans. Perched at the edge of sea grass flats where ...
Updated: 8 hours ago
Story of Louis Vuitton: As travel changed, so did luggage

Story of Louis Vuitton: As travel changed, so did luggage

NEW YORKAs travel changed, so did luggage. That’s the story told by an elaborate exhibition about Louis Vuitton, the luxury luggage and fashion brand. The exhibition, free to visit and on display in Lower Manhattan through Jan. 7, is called "Volez, V...
Published: 11/24/17
Black Friday deals at Legoland, SeaWorld, Disney and more

Black Friday deals at Legoland, SeaWorld, Disney and more

Black Friday isn’t just for stores. Many theme parks and attractions in Florida are also offering up deals that could make a nice gift or family splurge. The smaller the park, the bigger the deal, so Legoland, Gatorland and SeaWorld are toutin...
Published: 11/21/17
Updated: 11/23/17
Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Most air travelers say taking off your shoes is okay. An etiquette expert disagrees

Unless you are ensconced in first class, sleeping on a plane is as intimate as dozing off in a waiting room on jury duty — everyone on the aircraft knows the decibel level of your snoring and the sad state of your socks.To gauge how passengers percei...
Published: 11/20/17
With Harry Potter’s Christmas, Universal Orlando proves holidays are big business

With Harry Potter’s Christmas, Universal Orlando proves holidays are big business

ORLANDO — Christmas has finally come to Hogwarts at Universal Orlando in a new holiday attraction opening Saturday. In addition, Universal Studios has completely upsized its holiday parade with more Macy’s balloons, stunning floats and snowy effects ...
Published: 11/17/17
First look: Harry Potter’s Christmas finally arrives at Universal Orlando

First look: Harry Potter’s Christmas finally arrives at Universal Orlando

Christmas has finally come to Hogwarts at Universal Orlando, with the promise of warm butterbeer, a Frog Choir singing carols and a magical light show projected onto Hogwarts Castle nightly followed by fireworks. It opens to the public on Saturday. C...
Published: 11/17/17
Flights of fancy vacation photography, courtesy of drones

Flights of fancy vacation photography, courtesy of drones

Rachel RaczkaImagine your favorite vacation photo: that perfect sunset shot with waves gently crashing and an amber crescent reflecting off the ocean’s glassy surface.Now imagine it from above.Drone sales in the United States doubled in the year that...
Published: 11/16/17
Updated: 11/17/17
Explore underwater treasures at Sombrero Reef off Marathon in the Florida Keys

Explore underwater treasures at Sombrero Reef off Marathon in the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys seem like a world away, but they’re not too far away when you’re already in Miami.After departing from a cruise, my daughters and I wanted to keep the vacation going just a little bit longer. We headed south on U.S. 1, bound for Mara...
Published: 11/09/17
Updated: 11/16/17
Universal snaps up more land for potential theme park expansion

Universal snaps up more land for potential theme park expansion

Universal Orlando has purchased another big chunk of land in Orlando, giving the theme park company more than 570 acres to work with for expansions, possibly including a new theme park.The land is adjacent to the $130 million purchase Universal made ...
Updated one month ago
Busch Gardens offers 2018 Fun Card early, with a free Adventure Island pass

Busch Gardens offers 2018 Fun Card early, with a free Adventure Island pass

Busch Gardens has put its 2018 Fun Card on sale early, meaning you can get two free months to visit the Tampa theme park for the rest of this year and a free Adventure Islands water park pass in 2018. This is the fifth year that Busch Gardens has of...
Updated one month ago