Thanks so much for your questions! I had a lot of fun answering them but got to run now! I'll try to get to a few more if I have time later today! Have a good one!

Hi - I'm Priya Bapodra, veterinarian at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and I'm in the new series Secrets of the Zoo on Nat Geo WILD. I co-founded the first Giraffe Blood Bank, which has helped collect plasma from many species to assist vulnerable animals in need of life support at zoos across the country. I’m also an adjunct assistant professor at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine and I travel all over the country speaking about preventive vet medicine and vet management. AMA!


EDIT: Watch Priya on the series premiere of Secrets of the Zoo this Sunday at 9/8c on Nat Geo WILD!

Comments: 579 • Responses: 23  • Date: 

CounterSanity798 karma

After going to the zoo, and not getting to meet Jack Hanna, we had an idea for zoo T-shirt : “I went to the Columbus Zoo and didn’t see Jack”

Gift shop material?

In all seriousness it’s a great zoo.

nationalgeographic556 karma

I'm going to make sure Jack sees this!!! Hahahahahaha!


What’s the best way to tell if a zoo is actually working toward conservation and helping animals vs. just being a tourist trap? The worst feeling is going to a zoo and seeing emaciated or unnaturally lethargic animals.

nationalgeographic862 karma

Zoos and aquarums accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), meet the highest standards in animal care and welfare, and make up only 10% of over 10,000 facilities licensed by the USDA to have animals in their care. As part of the AZA standards, accredited facilities like the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium are required to participate in conservation projects benefitting wildlife in their native habitats.

N8teface307 karma

Hey Priya! Thanks for all the great work you're doing with the Columbus Zoo. What's your wildest animal patient story?

nationalgeographic512 karma

So many fun stories! I have a greater one-horned rhino born at the Wilds named after me 'Priya' - she happens to be just as ornery as her namesake hence the naming! I also have a cheetah friend called 'Kvamme' who just loves to give me hugs when I stop by to say hi!!!!

footballfish217 karma

Awesome and thanks for doing this! During your studies, did you have to become familiar with the anatomy of many animals? Medical students seem to spend their whole degree on just the human body yet you have a broad variety of animals to tend to. Do you specialise on just a few or do you not go into as much depth but cover many animals?

nationalgeographic251 karma

We work with all the creatures at the zoo! It was super tough to become competent with all the species we work with but that's the fun and challenging part of being a zoo vet! I love working with everything BUT hoofstock and megavertebrates are my favorite!

Llebanna182 karma

Are there any animals that you are scared or uncomfortable working with? What was your worst experience on the job?

nationalgeographic291 karma

I grew up having a HUGE phobia of snakes - it took a long time to get over that but they are one of my favorite groups to work with now! My worst expriences always involve when our beloved animals die.

jadebyron144 karma

Which animal is your favorite? Why?

nationalgeographic281 karma

I have SO MANY FAVORITES and it's too tough to chose one! BUT my top 10 includes giraffe, elephants, rhinos, polar bears, tree kangaroos, koalas, cheetahs, bonobos.....

FancyAdam131 karma

Hi! Are there any species that you feel are simply not appropriate for zoo life due to their inability to adapt to the environment within a zoo?

nationalgeographic131 karma

There are some species which are hard to manage, because their dietary needs are tough to replicate in human care. We are learning more and more, and this information can help not only animals in zoos but also in their native ranges.

femmishrobot81 karma

What are some challanges you encountered in regards to starting or running a Giraffe Blood Bank? Do giraffes have blood types?

nationalgeographic110 karma

The inital challenge really involved figuring how to make the team work - this includes the vets, animal caretakers, AND THE GIRAFFE! After months of dedicated and patient training of this voluntary behaviour, we were all set to go! There is of course the difference in height we had to work around! The processing of the plasma can also be pretty tricky, but thanks to the donations from a generous individual donor and the company that makes the centrifuge that spins the blood, Thermo Fisher Scientific, we now have the equipment to process the blood directly at the zoo!!! Another challenge is making sure that giraffe calves (babies) in need can get the plasma ASAP..... this often results in some long overnight road trips!

We have some work to do on giraffe blood types, but typing is not critical for one-off plasma transfusion. Although some cell types and cell sizes may be different under the microscope, the blood looks fairly similar across mammalian species.

You'll see how we draw the blood and hear more about our special giraffe blood donors on our new series, Secrets of the Zoo, premiering this Sunday 7/29, 9/8c on Nat Geo WILD!

hollylainem69 karma

I've been trying for months to move into a position at a zoo or aquarium in NYC - I've worked in marketing in magazine publishing for about four years and desperately trying to move into something I feel more passionately about. Any tips on making myself a better candidate for some sort of marketing position at zoos/aquariums -- or any other jobs that exist that I may not know about but could potentially look into? I am involved in cat rescue community in NYC and volunteer at a shelter; I'm a member of the Wild Bird Fund helping supporting saving NYC injured birds; I'm an amateur photographer and have a website dedicated to my photos which are mostly animal/travel centric.

nationalgeographic102 karma

Volunteering at a zoo or aquarium accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is a great opportunity since it not only helps provide you with experience, but it also assists in connecting you to their teams! The AZA also posts open positions at their accredited facilities. Here's the link so you can see the range of these positions to see if any of them might be of interest to you:

cyrusnimda57 karma

Hi Priya! why Giraffe blood?, and not pig or rat blood?

nationalgeographic85 karma

We are actually collecting plasma on a number of different species and we are hoping to add warthog plasma to this list very soon! Plasma from all animals is valuable to bank for future needs!

Annepackrat52 karma

Greetings from a volunteer at another Ohio Zoo!

What role does enrichment play in preventing health problems in zoo animals?

Also what does your zoo do with all the poo?

nationalgeographic121 karma

Enrichment is provided to the animals to stimulate them mentally and physically. Enrichment takes many forms from new smells to encouraging the animals to actively forage for their food. Animals benefit immensely from enrichment as some novel items for chewing can help with dental care while other activities encourage additional exercise for them.

Our animal care team can tell a lot about the health of an animal by examining it’s poo! Beyond just looking at it for color, consistency and quantity we can also determine pregnancy in some species by performing hormone analysis.

At the Columbus Zoo we transport about five tons of poo a day to Price Farms Organics where it is processed. In about two years it has transformed into rich soil that is sold as garden fertilizer called Zoo Brew.

cos_caustic47 karma

Seriously, which animal is the cutest?

nationalgeographic129 karma

Any BABY but baby cheetahs are definately high on the cute list!

sonofabutch35 karma

What are your thoughts about the Animal Planet show "The Zoo", about the Bronx Zoo, and how is your show going to be different?

nationalgeographic75 karma

We collaborate a lot with the Bronx Zoo here at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium - we're partners in saving species so we're thrilled that we both have a platform to spread the word about the good works of our organizations. One of the main differences is that The Zoo is based in New York where the pace and personalities are typically Northeastern. On The Zoo, you'll hear them talk about their "Boogie Down Bronx" vibe. Whereas at the Columbus Zoo, we're more typically midwestern. Also, we have our partner organization The Wilds, one of the largest conservation parks in the country where animals roam on thousands of acres. It's as close as you can get to going on safari in our country.

skrimpstaxx29 karma

Hey there, thank you for taking time out of your busy day to do this AmA for all of us, were excited to have you!

My question is this: If you could create something to help a species, what would the gadget do and for which species would you like to help the most?

nationalgeographic37 karma

Oh my! I could never chose just one species to help! A dream come true has been the plasma bank inititaive we started at the Columbus Zoo - banked plasma from multiple animals has been used to save the lives of many animals, both at our zoo and at other facilities we have sent plasma to!

notProfCharles27 karma

What is your favorite movie about animals and the water & why?

nationalgeographic59 karma

BBC's Blue Planet because it explains so many of the ocean's habitat mysteries and biodiversity.

Teisel-Bonne25 karma

What's the hardest part of the job to you? Was it always your dream to become a Vet?

nationalgeographic65 karma

I have always wanted to work with animals for as long as I can remember - I remember my uncle who was a veterinarian treating elephants in India which was a huge inspiration for me. The hardest part of the job for me is always dealing with the circle of life.

vedia92823 karma

Is it true that some companies come and milk many of your mammels to study their milk?

nationalgeographic66 karma

There is a national milk depository for the purpose of studying the composition of milk for animals in our care so we can better replicate it if there is a need to hand raise a newborn animal. Milk is collected by animal care staff that have voluntary trained behaviors with a particular animal that enables them to express the milk. We have contributed samples to the depository including the most comprehensive samples from an anteater.

pahadi_ladka22 karma

Hey Priya.... How to do u treat dangerous animals ?

nationalgeographic49 karma

Training animals to participate in voluntary medical behaviours is a huge focus of ours at the zoo, which often means we can do an exam or collect a blood smaple without sedation!

Thegreatgarbo16 karma

Do you guys call in specialists if you have certain medical issues? Cardiology? Neurology/behavior? Endocrinology etc?

nationalgeographic27 karma

To make sure our animals get the best care possible, we absolutely do call on specialists when needed!

available_username212 karma

How much money do you make?

nationalgeographic19 karma

I feel incredibly lucky to work with these animals, so I'd likely work for free! Salaries do however depend on where you work, how well the organisation is funded and any advanced training you may have.

bignibbajones8 karma

Should we give gorillas steroids?

nationalgeographic23 karma

I'm not sure I understand the question?

the_nin_collector8 karma

How do you feel about Zoos in general? Is that too vague? I have been to a lot of zoos in the USA and a lot in Japan. The ones in the USA like Birmingham and New Orleans were okay at the best. But the zoos in Japan are just horrible. Like the "world famous" Ueno zoo is just sad and depressing. Japanese choose to live in small confined spaces but to make large animals do the same just made me sad. I found American zoos to be constrictive. But Japanese zoos we're a joke in the size they offered animals. Not to mention the aquariums where I saw gaint king crabs in a tanks so small they could not turn around and everyone saying "oh delicious looking".

I 100% appreciate the learning environment and conservation that (some) zoos offer, but how to reconcile with what we do to these animals. Since visiting so many horrible zoos (and aquariums) in Japan I refuse to give anymore of my money to them. And I am a teacher, I don't preach this belief, but I do explain to my students that I am very conflicted when it comes to zoos. A massive elephant in a 10x10 fake dirt room is not "cute". It's great you get to see that creature in real life and learn about it, but know it's not happy. So how would you like to see zoos change? How can we offer the learning experience to as many people as possible with as little harm and discomfort to the animals as possible?

nationalgeographic12 karma

While I have not been to a Japanese zoo, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) evaluate their members based on accreditation standards for animal management and care, including living environments, social groupings, health and nutrition. Additionally, the Accreditation Commission evaluates each facility's veterinary program, involvement in conservation and research, education programs, safety policies and procedures, security, guest services, and more. These high standards are always evolving and developed based on science and with the well-being of the animals as the top priority. AZA's Accreditation Standards and Related Policies can be found here:

Whiskey_Icarus28-10 karma

Do you think Harambe was gonna hurt that kid?

nationalgeographic8 karma

The Harambe incident did not happen at the Columbus Zoo and I do not feel like I personally have enough information about Harambe and the situation to respond to this question.