All summer, the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium been featured on National Geographic TV’s "Secrets of the Zoo." The series finale aired Sunday, Aug. 18.
The reality show goes behind the scenes as keepers and veterinarians work to keep the animals happy and healthy. That behind-the-scenes look can pose some problems for the zoo staff doing the work.
"Having five camera guys and a sound guy and a producer show up at your already fairly intense lion procedure, where you need to make sure that the lion stays asleep and doesn't hurt anybody or the lion stays safe throughout the procedure, is another layer of things to think about," says Dr. Katie Seeley, a staff veterinarian.
There's also the added scrutiny of having their daily work projected to a nationwide audience.
"There's a lot of tough times that come with being a zoo vet, there's difficult decisions that need to be made, there's stressful procedures, so having all of that aired to the world is a little bit daunting," she adds.
Overall, though, Seeley is pleased with how her work is portrayed.
"What they've done a really good job of is showing that heart of the zoo. I think they've focused a lot not just on the animals and mechanically what we do, but the relationships that the staff has with these animals," she says.
With 10,000 animals of more than 600 species at the zoo, aquarium and The Wilds in Newark, that's a lot of relationships. Seeley says being an exotic animal vet is "most epic generalist specialty."
While other vets specialize in something specific, like cardiology or equine surgery, she is working with a fish one day and an elephant the next.
"Vet school is great at teaching you critical thinking, about cats, cows, pigs, horses," she says. "They don't teach you a ton about birds or reptiles. So I did a lot of time after vet school training to become competent at that."
That included a three-year residency at Ohio State's College of Veterinary Medicine, which works in conjunction with the zoo, one of just a handful of such collaboration-style residencies in the country. Seeley is one of less than 300 boarded zoo specialists in the country.
For Seeley, that time was worth it. Loving and taking care of animals is a lifelong passion of hers, although she adds one caveat.
"A lot of my patients if given the opportunity would kill me," she laughs.