Vet inspects wing of vulture

Zoo StaffMeet the Zoo’s New Vet!

December 10, 2020

The Zoo welcomes Dr. Tara Reilly, the new Veterinarian at the Animal Wellness Campus.

Q | Tell us a little about yourself.

A | I was born and raised in Colorado where I did search and rescue, managed a ranch, trained horses and competed in college rodeo. I went to both college and veterinary school at Colorado State University and I participated in medical externships at the Wildlife Center of Virginia, Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo (NE), and the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo (CO). After completing my doctorate, I performed a wildlife medicine internship at the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center of Minnesota where I treated more than 4,000 animal patients, performed hundreds of procedures and surgeries, and released thousands of animals back into the wild after they recovered. Prior to coming the Virginia Zoo, I was the Veterinarian for the Roosevelt Park Zoo (ND) and the Fort Worth Zoo (TX).

Q | What was most appealing about working at the Virginia Zoo?

A | The Virginia Zoo is a perfect fit for me in many ways. I always knew that I wanted to end up at a small to medium sized zoo where I get to know each individual animal by name and follow them through all stages of life from birth to their “golden years” as they age.  I also enjoy working with a smaller staff where I get to know each of them on a more personal level.

Q | What excites you about the Virginia Zoo?

A | I’m very excited to work with the amazing variety of animals we have here and work with a top-notch animal care team that takes great care of all of the animals each day. We also do great species conservation work and participate in many Species Survival Plans® (SSP) that work toward saving animal from extinction.

Vet inspects armadillo

A | What animal, that you have never worked with before, are you excited to work with?

A | We have an absolutely gorgeous female Siamese crocodile that I am excited to work with. This species is currently the most endangered species of crocodile due to commercial hunting in the wild. We are very fortunate to be one of a few institutions to have such a magnificent ambassador for her species, to help teach such a great conservation message to the public and inspire them to help save these animals in the wild.

Q | What career moment are you most proud of?

A | For me, I am most proud when I can help with conservation efforts of endangered species and help save them from extinction. I spent two months in South Africa assisting with field conservation efforts of free-ranging African Penguins and Black Rhinoceros and assisting the anti-poaching teams there. It was a very rewarding and valuable experience for me and I can’t wait to continue my conservation work here at our amazing Zoo!

Q | What is your favorite animal to work with?

A | It’s really hard to decide since I love working with all the animals, but if I had to choose one at the Virginia Zoo, I’d say Southern Ground Hornbills. They are charismatic, inquisitive, and interactive which makes them easy for me to work with and makes them fairly easy to train to voluntarily participate in their own healthcare (which makes my job easier and more fun as well)!

Q | Anything else you’d like to add?
A |
An area of special interest for me is using progressive integrative therapies in zoo animals. This includes modalities such as cold laser therapy, acupuncture, and thermography to help treat and diagnose a variety of ailments as well as keep our animals healthy and happy. This is especially helpful during their senior years as they begin to develop conditions such as arthritis (just like in people)!

When Dr. Tara isn’t working she likes to ride her horses and create artwork. “I love to make stained glass art, and make coasters using photos of the animals that I’ve worked with over the years.”