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Reid Park Zoo announces partnership with UA vet school

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Alex McIntyre and Alex McIntyre | The Daily Wildcat Jonathan Sprinkle receives a margarita through a lit ice sculpture during ZOOscon 2016 at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson on Friday, Oct. 14, 2016. Shane Burgess, UA vice president for agriculture, life and veterinary sciences, and cooperative extension, announced at the event a $350,000 donation allowing the university and zoo to break ground on a new animal health sciences center.

UA students will not only have the option to study at the UA’s new School of Veterinary Medicine, but they will also have the opportunity to work with exotic animals at the Reid Park Zoo, thanks to a new partnership.

The zoo will break ground for a new, $3.8 million Animal Health Center in December, Reid Park Zoo Administrator Jason Jacobs said at Friday’s 2016 ZOOcson event. It should be an 11-month project with the architecture company Swaim Associates LTD, as long as there are no unexpected delays.

“Once you start digging, you never know what you’ll find,” Jacobs said.

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The planning for the collaboration first began in November of 2013, but really got started in the spring of 2014 according to Jacobs. Reid Park Zoo’s current Animal Health Center was built in 1978 and is only 3,000 square feet.

At the end of the project, the zoo will have a new 10,000 square foot building with state-of-the-art equipment, but also included will be two rooms capable of housing up to four people. Those rooms are intended for UA juniors and seniors studying exotic animals, allowing them to actually live and work in the center on a rotating basis.

Shane Burgess, vice president of agriculture, life and veterinary sciences, dean of College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and interim dean of the School of Veterinary Medicine, said this collaboration will benefit both the UA and the zoo.

“Our partnership with the zoo has been blossoming the past couple of years,” Burgess said. “The zoo is critical to us. It’s key for us to be able to attract the very best people in the world to come out here.”

Chief philanthropy officer of Reid Park Zoo and UA alumna Diana Whitman was also excited about the new center and the students that will be working there.

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“When you look at the old health center—this will make a big difference,” Whitman said. “It will be a real pleasure. This project is big for our animals—our animals need that kind of care.”

Alexis Moreno, Reid Park Zoo veterinarian and UA alumna agreed, saying that this partnership will present students with a great opportunity to get experience in a difficult field.

“The zoo will get a lot of exposure, as will students,” Moreno said. “In the zoo medicine field it’s all about getting your feet wet, and getting in the door. This will show students what it’s all about.”

Earlier in the night, Moreno auctioned off two “Zoo Vet for a Day” packages to help raise money for the zoo. Amid the cheers that followed the two $20,000 final bids, she told the crowd why she had chosen to get into the field.

She said with the new partnership between UA and Reid Park Zoo, more students will get to pursue their passions.

“I get to wake up, then come here and play with the lions, and then the elephants,” Moreno said. “Yes, play. Don’t get me wrong, I’m practicing veterinary medicine, but I’m also doing what I love.”


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