Behind-the-Scenes at an African Lion's Physical


Earlier this week, Dr. Jb Minter and other members of the veterinary team North Carolina Zoo gave Reilly, the zoo’s 17 year-old male African lion his annual checkup.

Reilly’s preventative health exam, which was conducted under general anesthesia, included a physical and dental exam, vaccinations and blood draw. Abdominal ultrasonography was also performed to check Reilly’s internal organs.

Learn more about the N.C. Zoo's African lions. 

Here’s a look behind-the-scenes at this important health measure:

Getting Ready. Veterinary technician Heather Shaub, offloads the equipment needed for Reilly’s annual examination. Nearly all of the Zoo’s medical equipment is portable and can be moved to any location in the zoo.

Checking Vital Signs. Dr. Jb Minter, the Zoo’s Senior Veterinarian, monitors Reilly’s vital signs during the exam. Reilly was anesthetized and intubated for the procedure.


A Full Check Up.  Dr. Lori Westmoreland, a first year Zoological and Aquatic Medicine Resident, performs a thorough physical examination on Reilly during his annual check-up.



The Zoo, in partnership with North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine and the North Carolina Aquariums, conduct a formal American College of Zoological Medicine approved residency program in zoological and aquatic animal medicine.

Checking Reilly’s Teeth. Veterinary technician, Andrea Persson, conducts a dental examination, which is an integral part of Reilly’s annual examination.


Drawing Blood. Veterinary Technicians, Andrea Persson and Heather Shaub obtain a blood sample from the Reilly’s tail.  Blood samples provide useful information in evaluating the health status of animals at the Zoo.


Wrapping Up with an Ultrasound.  Dr. Lori Westmoreland, under the guidance of Dr. Jb Minter, performs an abdominal ultrasound on Reilly. Abdominal ultrasound allows veterinary professionals to see a visualization of Reilly’s internal organs and gives the veterinary staff a better understanding of what is going on inside the body.


The North Carolina Zoo’s veterinary team and animal care staff are dedicated to providing superior health care for all of the animals housed there, and annual checkups allow the veterinary team to pick up on subtle changes early and act if needed.

Reilly was given a clean bill of health and returned to the exhibit with female Mekita and their offspring the following day.