Animal Health, Welfare & Training

More than 100 Shedd staffers and an army of volunteers are responsible for the well-being of our animals, covering the four cornerstones of animal care:

Every day we prepare balanced meals for 32,000 animals, catering to the tastes and nutritional needs of 1,500 species of invertebrates, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals. The species-specific diets include restaurant-grade seafood, fresh fruits and vegetables —some grown in Shedd’s organic gardens — and live foods such as insects and planktonic animals cultured on site.

The animal care team and animal health team work side by side to monitor and maintain the animals’ good health. It takes teamwork to anesthetize a shark and carry out a wellness exam, conduct a sonogram on a beluga whale, or run routine blood tests on a pack of penguins. Thanks to the preventive medical care that all the animals receive, critical-care procedures are few and far between.

Many of the animals have been trained to participate in their own healthcare, hopping onto a scale, rolling over for an ultrasound, or opening wide for a dental exam. Providing the veterinarians with safe, immediate access to an animal is one of the most important aspects of training.

Clean, comfortable, naturalistic habitats round out animal care. A computerized life-support system controls temperature, salinity, filtration and other parameters, guaranteeing animals’ specific needs are met, from chilled saltwater to tropical freshwater environments. And you’ll find our maintenance divers in both, doing detailed cleaning by hand.