Exams for Anacondas

Today's post comes to you from Kerry McNally in the Animal Health department. She takes us behind the scenes to show how the Aquarium's veterinarians with the whole health care team take care of its animals. Kerry also blogged extensively when she was with the Sea Turtle Rescue department.

Staff and volunteers work hard to ensure all of the animals at the New England Aquarium are well taken care of. We provide the right food and nutrients, habitat and enrichment opportunities to make sure everyone is healthy. This also means trips to the veterinarian for small and big animals alike. This includes our anacondas!

Checking heart rate

Every year or two, we remove our three large green anacondas from their exhibit and head upstairs to our Animal Health department. We lightly sedate the animals for easy handling, maneuvering and for human and animal safety. Once the snakes are comfortable, our veterinarian begins a thorough physical exam to ensure the snakes are growing properly and to identify any potential health issues early.

Say "aaaaahhhh"
The vet starts by evaluating every inch of the body to make sure there are no wounds or scale loss. The next step is to get current weights and lengths. This is no easy task-the anacondas are big! It’s hard to imagine that two of the snakes, Wilson and Marion, were less than a pound when they were born on New Year’s Day 2008. Now they weigh in at over 65 pounds and are over 11 feet long. But they are not the largest snake in the exhibit. That’s our oldest anaconda Kathleen, who weighs in at 101 pounds and is 13.5 feet long!

Taking measurements

One radiograph at a time: Kerry maneuvers the machinery while her partner holds the snake

Radiograph of Wilson's head
Just like an annual physical you might get at your doctor, our vet looks in the mouth and at the eyes, collects a blood sample for analysis and even does radiograms! This allows us to check the snake’s bones for healthy growth, ensures there are no unusual masses and even to see if there are ovarian follicles. It takes quite a few shots to get the full length of a 13 foot animal! After checking lots of x-rays, as well as the rest of the tests, all of our animals look like they are in good shape.

The snakes were then moved to a holding tank once their exams were finished so they could fully recover and slowly wake up from the sedation. They were then returned to the exhibit the next day with no issues. We can now say our anacondas are in good health and, until their next exam, you can see these amazing animals on exhibit in the Freshwater gallery.

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