ASHEBORO--The North Carolina Zoo's veterinary staff has taken on a new mission this summer: to help cultivate the next generation of veterinarians who will work with wild and exotic animals.

To achieve this goal, the zoo has organized three weekend summer camps where youngsters ages 12 to 15 can live the dream of becoming a zoo veterinarian.

Each of the camps begins on a Friday afternoon and continues through Sunday afternoon. Throughout the weekend, campers will attend classes about zoo veterinary work, exploring diverse topics ranging from tracking wild animals with radio telemetry to tying surgical sutures.

On the last day of camp, campers will observe an actual surgical procedure as a zoo veterinarian spays an animal for the Humane Society. Campers will also practice their own surgical skills by operating on anesthetized milk-jug pigs. Other classes will have campers using veterinary equipment (X-rays, sonograms and an endoscope), learning to bandage animals and helping with research on Puerto Rican Crested Toads.

Chief Veterinarian Dr. Mike Loomis will teach the campers with help from veterinarians participating in a three-year residency program coordinated by the zoo and the N.C. State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Veterinary students from N.C. State will serve as mentors and counselors, helping campers make plans for getting into veterinary school and becoming veterinarians.

Campers will stay at the zoo's Valerie H. Schindler Wildlife Learning Center and will be supervised by carefully screened veterinary students along with staff members from the zoo and N.C. Zoo Society. Camp dates are June 26 - 28 for girls only and July 17 - 19 for boys only. A coeducation camp for 10 girls and 10 boys is also scheduled for August 7 - 9.

Cost for the camps is $375 for N.C. Zoo Society members and $400 for non-members. A limited number of scholarships for campers with financial needs are also available. To learn more visit the Zoo Society Web site at or call 336-879-7273.

The N.C. Zoo Society is the private non-profit organization that raises money and engenders public support for the N.C. Zoo. The zoo is an agency of the N.C. Department of Environment & Natural Resources, Dee Freeman, Secretary; Beverly Eaves Perdue, Governor.