Carmen is a male two-toed sloth from South America and Jo is a four ton female elephant from Africa. They each have their own keepers who take care of them on a daily basis, but who do you call when they get sick? That’s Dr. Mike Selig’s job. As a staff veterinarian at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, he oversees the health and well-being of more than 2,500 animals.
We visited the zoo on a cold, raw day in late February, the day after a swollen creek had flooded the lower lying areas. The zoo was closed to the public because of the mess left behind and while crews rushed around cleaning up, we were given the royal treatment, taken into the inner resources of some of the zoo’s buildings. We watched Dr. Selig perform Carmen’s examination from only a few feet away. I was able to touch Carmen’s fur (it feels quite coarse) while he was still asleep. We found that you have to step in pans of disinfectant as you move through every doorway in the zoo’s medical building so as to not spread any germs. We walked through the business side of a primate exhibit in the zoo’s Rain Forest so Dr. Selig could check on a patient – and it smelled pretty exotic on that side of the glass. Most fascinating of all, we got a close-up view of the elephant keeper and Dr. Selig as they worked through Jo’s exam – much closer than zoo visitors get as they walk through this brand new building in the zoo’s new African Elephant Crossing exhibit. We had to stay behind the red line, just out of trunk’s reach!
WVIZ/PBS ideastream® developed “Great Job!”, a video series for the 6th through 8th grade STEM curriculum (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), designed to raise student and community awareness of STEM careers and the education available through Ohio’s K-12 and University system. In his “Great Job!” profile, Dr. Selig talks about his job as a zoo veterinarian, his responsibilities and duties, as well as the training and formal education he received at the Ohio State University. He also tells us about all the different fields of science that come into play in his job. We follow the doctor through a “typical” day as he works with both keepers and veterinary assistants. Two of the highlights are a routine checkup of a sloth and a physical examination of an elephant.