The Greater Vancouver Zoo \ has started construction of its own animal care facility for veterinary work.
Ever since it was the Vancouver Game Farm, the zoo has used either an aging barn or offsite clinics for its sick and injured animals.
According to property manager Tony Guenther, the barn is almost a hundred years old, and it's been upgraded, repaired, and rebuilt many times.
The cost of building the new facility will be about $1 million, but for the staff it will be priceless.
"I'm incredibly excited," said Claire Stead, the zoo's veterinary technician.
Starting later this year, she'll be working in the new building daily, and said it will be a big step forward.
There are about 430 animals at the zoo, ranging from small birds and monkeys, through medium-sized animals like capybaras and emus, up to hippos, tigers, and bears.
A few of them are always in need of minor medical attention. They may need daily medication, or they may require urinalysis or other labwork to be done.
Animals must be vaccinated and sometimes wormed. Minor injuries have to be cleaned.
Once they're in the care facility, they need to be fed, watered, and checked on frequently.
For the smaller animals, that's difficult enough - they may not be big, but they're not housepets, either.
For larger animals, it can be extremely difficult to ensure both animal and keeper can be kept safe.
So one of the most-anticipated additions to the new building will be a squeeze.
A squeeze is a relatively narrow passage with padded sides, which can contract to gently but firmly pin an animal in place. Once it's immobilized, veterinarians and vet techs can give shots or conduct examinations.
"It's going to increase safety for the humans and the animals," said Stead.
Animals can panic when they're taken out of their pens and put in a vet's office.
"They don't understand what's happening to them," Stead said.
The animals can thrash around, possibly injuring themselves. The squeeze will eliminate much of that danger.
It also provides an alternative to tranquilizing animals - a procedure which can be risky with wild creatures. Vets have to monitor a tranquilized animal very closely to ensure that they survive.
The zoo already has squeeze-type facili-ties for its largest animals, the hippos and giraffe, built into their pens.
The facility will also allow Dr. Bruce Burton, the zoo's regular vet, to do more of his work on site. In the past, he's often had to take animals back to his office in Abbotsford, but this will eliminate many of the trips, and thus keep the animals calmer and closer to their pens.
The facility will have everything from a temporary quarantine area for sick animals to an area for food preparation.
It will have new freezers and a hay storage area.
Land has already been cleared, and it is hoped that the building will be up and running later this year.
. Ground-breaking ceremony Feb. 17
. Expected date of completion July 2012
. Size: 45' x 120' (5,400 square feet)
. Offers a secure, efficient and safe environment to work in onsite at the zoo.
. Total of 23 rooms including: a cooler, a freezer, modern kitchen area for food preparation and nutrition, a hospital area for the treatment of sick and injured animals and minor surgery, eight rooms for animal quarantine, a vet technician office, and a lab area.
. Other key elements of the clinic include: fully electric heating throughout the building that is more environmentally friendly, 100 per cent steel construction to make it long lasting, and over-sized garage door access for easy deliveries.
. Designed by Thomas Jung.
. Estimated costs are $800,000 to $1 million.