1/13 New Animal Care Center Preview, Busch Gardens Tampa with Jack Hanna

Busch Gardens Tampa gave us a sneak peek of their new Animal Care Center, which is set to open on January 23rd to the public. We spoke with animal expert Jack Hanna and took a tour of the facility, which will give guests an intimate view of how Busch Gardens cares for their animals.

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Vice President of Zoological Operations Mike Boos welcomed everyone to the Animal Care Center, saying he was “proud of the animal care and stewardship we give our animals every day” and that Busch Gardens wanted to be able to share that experience with guests.

The Animal Care Center allows guests to watch park veterinarians give checkups, perform surgeries, and treat animals that are brought in. We were able to vew a sloth that received an ultrasound to determine if she was pregnant (she wasn’t), and a turtle and snake as they received check-ups. Check out our Sloth ultrasound video here! I was amazed at how much a serval acted like my own cats (hissing while being checked). The glass walls and cameras give a variety of views into the treatment rooms. Guests will often be able to talk with zoo educators about what is taking place, and even with the vets themselves. There is also nutrition center where educators will show how Busch Gardens prepares the diet for their animals. We watched as a hard-boiled egg was peeled for a hungry possum.

Jack Hanna has a long-standing relationship with Busch Gardens and Sea World, having “been involved with Busch Gardens Tampa since 1968 “, when he was on his honeymoon and paid a visit. He praises Busch Gardens as an innovator, saying that “one of the first African veldts ever built in the country was here”.

I asked Jack Hanna if he had any input into the new Animal Care Center. “The only input I had”, he said, “was when they asked me if I’d ever seen something like this”. He continued that he told Busch Gardens about Healsville Sanctuary in Australia, which the Animal Care Center is at least partly modeled after. Jack later joked that he was going to have his knee operated on in the Animal Care Center the next morning.

Busch Gardens Tampa cares for more than 2000 animals, and you can expect to see many of them being treated in the new center. Some surgeries will not be visible, depending on the situation – and animals such as giraffes will not be brought in, but will be treated in the field. I listened in as one vet was speaking, and he said that the center should be fairly busy from the morning into early afternoon (although there is no set schedule as it's a working center and procedures will change daily).

We were impressed by what we saw, and I expect guests to greatly enjoy this new experience. I was disappointed to leave the exam area, it was pretty exciting every time a new animal was brought in!

The Animal Care Center replaces the former Rhino exhibit in Nairobi, and encompasses nearly 16,000 square feet.

Vice President of Zoological Operations Mike Boos:

 

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Jack Hanna spoke with us in front of the new Animal Care Center. We were with a group of about 10 at that time, and we asked Hanna several questions. Check out our video here!

 

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And even takes time to pose with everyone:

 

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We were mesmerized by the animals – especially this adorable sloth who had come in for an ultrasound! The staff was hoping she was pregnant, but she turned out not to be. Check out our video!

 

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A turtle was next:

 

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The serval was hesitant:

 

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Look at those eyes! A cuscus is carried in for a checkup:

 

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A snake is brought in:

 

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On our way to the kitchen to watch food being prepared, I took some photos:

 

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Guests will be able to learn abut the diets of the animals at Busch Gardens. This possum loves hardboiled eggs (peeled first!) and grapes:

 

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The possum makes a break for it (but didn't get farther than the table!)

 

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This sign announces the new Animal Care Center:

 

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And we enjoyed much of the day at Busch Gardens, feeding kangaroos, riding Cheetah Hut and even meeting Big Bird! Besides being invited to park events, we are Platinum Passholders who enjoy spending time in the park.

 

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Haven't been to Busch Gardens in a while? There is a lot new to see and do, and the Animal Care Center is just one part of that!