Behind the Scenes banner
A veterinary nurse places a freshwater turtle on the bed of a CT.

This freshwater turtle, a patient from the Florida Wildlife Hospital, recently had a scan at our new CT!

Animal wellbeing is a top priority for our Zoo, and we’re always looking for ways to expand the level of medical care we can provide our residents. We’re proud to share a new piece of diagnostic equipment has been installed at our L3Harris Animal Care Center: A computerized tomography (CT) scanner.

“The CT will change the game for the medical care that we can provide,” said Dr. Trevor Zachariah, the Zoo’s director of veterinary programs. “It will also open new opportunities for research to improve the knowledge about and medical care for our animals.”

There are less than 10 zoos in North America that have CTs on-site – and we’re one of the smaller zoos on that list! The funding for this CT is thanks to the incredible generosity of Clint Severson and Conni Ahart.

A CT at Brevard Zoo.CT scans combine a series of x-ray images to get a detailed look at the internal structures of the body. A CT builds upon the views radiography and ultrasonography offer with a 3D aspect and additional details.

“This is particularly true for skeletal structures, as well as certain organs like the lungs,” Trevor said. “As an example, CT provides extensively more detail of shell trauma in sea turtles.”

In the past, we’ve partnered with both veterinary and human medical facilities for CT scans of our animal patients. However, taking any animal off Zoo grounds requires extra logistical concerns like planning for additional travel time and working around our partners’ schedules, Trevor said.

Bringing our patients to an outside facility is also an animal wellness issue. Our patients may need to be anesthetized for a longer period of time to account for traveling or may need to deal with the stress of travel while awake.

“Due to these issues, we do not utilize CT as much as we would like to,” Trevor said. “So, with the increased capability afforded by having the machine on site, we are able to improve the amount and quality of care for our animals.”

Many patients of our Sea Turtle Healing Center need CTs, which give their care team an idea of the extent of everything from injuries to fibropapillomatosis tumors. Brody the Florida black bear is another top priority for our in-house CT. We want to check on the condition of his pelvis and hindlimbs since surgery and treatments years ago.

A look a the diagnostic screen of a CT with machine in the background.The machine’s gantry, or the ring in which a patient is placed, has a diameter of 75 centimeters. The table holds up to 650 pounds. A full scan from our new machine can take 5 minutes or less with images created within seconds.

Having a CT at our Zoo is the culmination of a long process – Trevor has been advocating for it for more than 5 years.

“I am proud of the Zoo for taking the idea seriously and working to make it happen,” Trevor said. “It demonstrates our dedication to animal wellness and the high quality of care that we provide.”

Brevard Zoo is an independent, not-for-profit organization that receives no recurring government funding for our operating costs. Your generous support enables us to continue to serve our community and continue our vital animal wellness, education and conservation programs.