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Zoo gets bird DNA samples
new slt eagle exam
Dr. Mike Malone and Brit Spaugh Zoo Curator Marge Bowen hold down the zoos bald eagle, in order to get a blood sample. The sample will be used to determine the birds sex. - photo by Susan Thacker


Wednesday afternoon, Dr. Mike Malone found himself eyeball to eyeball with an eagle.

Malone is veterinarian to Great Bend’s Brit Spaugh Zoo. This week he completed collecting blood samples on 20 of the zoo’s birds. Samples will be sent to a lab to determine the sex of the birds.

The eagle has been at the zoo for several years, but its sex was never known for certain, Zoo Director Scott Gregory said.

A bird’s talon has a blood vessel inside, much like that of a dog or cat’s claw, and will bleed if trimmed too deeply, Gregory explained.  "It’s very difficult to determine the sex of some birds," he said. With bald eagles, as with most raptors, females are about a third larger than the males, but that didn’t give the staff a lot to go on.

Knowing the sex of other birds at the zoo is helpful information for possible breeding.

Gender can be an important factor when it comes to zoo animals, Gregory said. For example, the zoo has plans to acquire a second kinkajou. Luna, a female kinkajou, was acquired earlier this year. A second female is being sent by Elmwood Park Zoo in Norrison, Pa. "Kinkajous are pretty social, so we’re getting another female to be her mate (companion)."

The Pennsylvania zoo is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and Great Bend is working toward attaining AZA accreditation. This is the second animal received from an AZA Zoo. Earlier this year, the Topeka Zoo sent an iguana.

See "local news" for more zoo news.