Zoo Vet Shows Passion for Animals


Riley Vallot writes, Being a zoo vet can be very exciting.

Being a zoo vet can be very exciting. “I never wanted to be anything else,” said Dr. Felicia Knightly, Senior Veterinarian at the Denver Zoo. One time Dr. Knightly was in an operating room with a tiger that came out of a new anesthesia faster than expected. Everyone was rushed out of the room and now they make sure an animal is near its habitat before they take it off anesthesia.Dr. Knightly has worked at the Denver Zoo for over 13 years. She gives shots to prevent illnesses, takes care of sick animals and operates when necessary. A team of seven people which includes three vets, a lab technician, and three vet technicians take care of all the animals at the zoo. “I think that animals deserve excellent care and I wanted to be the person who gives that to them,” Dr. Knightly explained when asked why she wanted to be a vet.Dr. Knightly and her team work in a building behind the nursery. Inside and outside cages for all sorts of animals are here. There is a kitchen where the workers can prepare food for the animals that are recovering and a lab where they can test blood and other stuff. There is also an exam room and an operating room with an anesthesia machine. Dr. Knightly said that more often than not the vet will go to the animal rather than the animal coming to this building.”I learn new stuff every day. There is no day like another.” That is what makes her job fun. “I am always happy to go to work.” “Who else gets to feed a giraffe a carrot if they have a bad day at work?””The hardest part of being a vet is saying goodbye to the animals you love, said Knightly. “I would have to say the animal I became the most attached to was a silverback gorilla.” He was transferred to another zoo in Florida but every year Dr. Knightly goes to see him. “Every time I go to see him he recognizes me!” He got transferred again, this time to a zoo in Alabama. “I am looking forward to seeing him again this year.””I love all animals but primates have to be one of my favorites. They are so smart they keep you on your toes.” Dr. Knightly is excited about the new baby orangutan, Hesty. Hesty is the first orangutan born at the Denver Zoo in 25 years!One time Knightly was examining a grizzly bear cub and he bit her finger right through her knuckle. She has a scar to prove it. Dr. Knightly said she was not mad at him because he was a wild animal and that is just what he knows to do.Being a zoo vet can be fun and exciting but it is hard work. To become a zoo vet you have to do well in school and you have to have a passion for animals. Dr. Knightly said, “Find a way to enjoy school. Don’t give up. Hang in there. If that is really what you want to do then you can do it.”