Lion-Size Toothache: Behind the Scenes at Brookfield Zoo’s Animal Hospital

It takes a large and dedicated team to care for the more than 3,000 animals at Brookfield Zoo.

Detecting illness in animals is particularly difficult because most animals have evolved in the wild to mask signs of injury or illness so as not to attract undue attention from predators or rivals. Because of that, careful observation by keepers and other animal welfare staff is key.

“They know their animals very well so the way they catch things that might be occurring is through animal observations,” says Bill Zeigler, Senior Vice President at the Chicago Zoological Society who is in charge of all animal programs at the institution. “Did they eat well today? Are they getting along with their social group? Do they have a lustrous, full coat of hair? Little subtle signs like that, when those things change, can be signs of an issue that may be going on.”

Chicago Tonight was recently given behind-the-scenes access to observe the animal welfare team as they took care of Zenda, a 10-year-old male lion who appeared to be having trouble chewing its food.

Among the specialists working on Zenda was Dr. Marina Ivančić, the first and only board-certified radiologist working full-time at any zoo or aquarium in the world.

Below are some images from scans done by Ivančić since she began working at Brookfield Zoo, including a sea lion with scoliosis.

  • 3-D angiography of a spider monkey. (Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

    3-D angiography of a spider monkey. (Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

  • 3-D volume rendering of a tortoise. (Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

    3-D volume rendering of a tortoise. (Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

  • 3-D volume rendering of a sea lion. (Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

    3-D volume rendering of a sea lion. (Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

  • 3-D volume rendering of a snow leopard's knee. (Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

    3-D volume rendering of a snow leopard's knee. (Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

  • 3-D volume rendering of a pygmy hippo. (Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

    3-D volume rendering of a pygmy hippo. (Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

  • Radiograph of reindeer hooves. (Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)

    Radiograph of reindeer hooves. (Courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society)


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