Dear Aquarium family,
My name is Whitney Daniel, and I discovered my life’s work through my connection with animals. My love of wildlife started at a young age, and my dreams came true in 2011 when I was hired as a sea turtle biologist for the Sea Turtle Care Center™. During my five years as a biologist, I found my true calling: veterinary animal care. I transitioned to my current position as the veterinary assistant in 2016 and recently celebrated my ten-year anniversary with the Aquarium.
As veterinary assistant, I have the opportunity to care for all sorts of animals, from furry and feathered, to scaley and slithery. Providing care and support for the more than 5,000 animals in our collection means that every single day is different, presenting its own unique set of challenges and opportunities for veterinary innovation.
One of my favorite animal care success stories is Ron, a Central American boa. Eleven years ago, Ron was brought to the Aquarium after his owner could no longer take care of him. Since then, he has served as an ambassador animal, spending his twilight years teaching guests the importance of responsible pet ownership and clearing up misconceptions about his fellow snakes. But just like humans, animals need annual exams, and just like humans, they undergo age-related medical changes. One of the most common ailments we see is arthritis.
A few years ago, during an exam, we noticed some severe spinal changes in Ron that were progressing quickly. These physical changes also coincided with behavioral changes, including a decline in activity level and keeping himself curled up in a ball. We started him on a weekly cold laser treatment. Laser therapy uses visible light radiation to produce a photochemical reaction within the body’s cells, helping promote healing, reduce inflammation and improve circulation. We lasered Ron’s entire spine for five minutes a week.
After only a few sessions, we started to see a big change in his demeanor and activity level. He is now able to fully extend his body in a straight line and move like a much younger snake!
We’ve seen similar success with our sea turtle patients, like Bloodstone. Bloodstone arrived at the Sea Turtle Care Center after being struck by a boat. The boat impacted Bloodstone on their left side, fracturing several marginal scutes, causing multiple lacerations on their neck and severe swelling and bruising to the left, front flipper. We performed a radiograph and CT which confirmed fractures in the flipper and a fracture to Bloodstone’s left jaw. We decided to try laser therapy. Not only does laser therapy reduce inflammation and promote better healing, it can also accelerate healing, which is why it’s one of my favorite pieces of equipment — it’s just such a powerhouse! The laser was used on all of Bloodstone’s injuries multiple times a week, and we saw a huge difference in wound healing because of it. Days after arriving at our hospital, Bloodstone was using their flipper and swimming in their tank.
Through the Aquarium and cases like Ron and Bloodstone, I’ve discovered my true purpose: animal care. Each day working in animal care presents a new challenge, a new opportunity for veterinary innovation. It’s a calling that’s as difficult as it is fulfilling, as trying as it is rewarding. Thank you for helping ensure every creature in our care gets the top-notch medical treatment they deserve.
Yours, always for the animals,