Providing optimal health…all of the time - Monty’s story

Yvette Kemp

As you learned last week, the San Diego Zoo’s animal hospital has been open for business during the pandemic. The animals are continuing to arrive for their appointments and the veterinary staff continues to look after their well-being. Because there aren’t any animals moving around to other facilities, we are seeing more animals for their preventative medical exams (PME).

But not everyone comes up for that. Case in point is American magpie, Monty.

Some of you may know Monty. He is that very cute black and white bird that lives with the secretary bird in Elephant Odyssey. Somehow, not known how, Monty broke his left wing on April 23rd. He was brought up to the hospital and after radiographs, had a wrap placed on the wing and set up in a holding area at the hospital that would limit his movement.

That in itself has been a feat for the animal care specialists taking care of him during his stay at the hospital. Monty should be considered as a high maintenance patient. Not because of his injury, but because he REALLY wants to be the center of attention and have many, many people keeping him busy.

The animal care specialists at the hospital knew that to ensure Monty’s well-being, it was necessary to provide him with the opportunities to thrive during his stay. Dr. Ben Nevitt made sure that he received immediate treatment for his injury, starting him on the road to a healthy recovery. Thanks to our nutritionists, we knew he had a well-balanced diet which the animal care specialists could present in ways that would promote natural behaviors and physical challenges to help him recover from his injury. They were constantly providing him opportunities for choice and control, with various ways to navigate his habitat, providing puzzles to work through, and even working on crate training for moving him around. But he wanted more. How do we know, he literally told us so! Monty talks. Yes, constantly and a lot. Especially when he wants someone to be with him… and then when they are with him… and then all of the time! So, there were many hours spent with Monty making sure he was comfortable and relaxed in his new environment.

At his follow up exam one month later, he was cleared to move into a larger run, but with branches placed in a stair step fashion and again, with many things to keep him entertained physically and mentally. We wanted him to start exercising but not so much that he would reinjure that wing. Finally, after another exam on the 19th of June, he was cleared to move to a larger area where he was challenged to fly more and build up his strength.

Monty continues to improve physically and has been showing that he can fly short distances now. With more R&R, his wing will finish healing and his flying days will be back to what they were. Until then, he will stay at the hospital and keep healing…. and calling for us… and demanding more attention. Good thing he is cute! Be sure to look for him when he goes back to his habitat with the secretary bird.

And to really appreciate Monty, you have to hear him… (see video below)

Yvette Kemp is an Animal Care Supervisor at San Diego Zoo Jennings Center for Zoological Medicine.

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