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Dr. Jb Minter | Chief Veterinarian, North Carolina Zoo
Dr. Jb Minter | Chief Veterinarian, North Carolina Zoo
Q: What is your position at the North Carolina Zoo?
I'm the Chief Veterinarian and Director of the Hanes Veterinary Medical Center.
Q: How many years of training have you had in order to be a veterinarian at your level, and where did you go to school?
Between undergraduate school, veterinary school, and doing the necessary residencies and training, about 14 years of training and school combined after high school. I earned my undergraduate degree in animal science at Virginia Tech; my master's degree in wildlife biology from Utah State University; and graduated from North Carolina State University - College of Veterinary Medicine. I did an internship in large animal medicine and surgery at the University of Illinois before moving to Florida to work in a small animal practice. Then I came back to North Carolina to complete my residency in zoological medicine and got my board certification in zoological medicine too. Now here I am now fortunate enough to be putting all of this education to good use.
Q: Do you have a favorite animal, and what is something interesting about that animal?
The Southern White Rhinos are my favorite animals. They are incredibly smart animals with a lot of personality and they love to be touched and scratched. The white rhinos have two horns rather than just one. They are highly sought after animals which sadly makes them endangered. I'm very interested in protecting them. They are incredibly fast animals that can actually run 30 miles per hour in short bursts. The males can weigh well over 4,000 pounds, but the females weigh considerably less. A lot of people are aware that rhinos like to take mud baths, but most don't realize why. The mud plays two important roles: it acts as a natural insect repellant, and as a great sunscreen. Yes, even rhinos can get sunburned.
Q: Have you ever been to Africa to see animals in the wild?
Yes, I've been to Africa and I plan to go back. In fact, the North Carolina Zoo has an elephant tracking program in Cameroon, Africa. Tracking the elephants helps in regards to conservation. By collecting data on their populations it helps the government to know where to build and develop, and where the important habitats need to remain to help them thrive. We have education programs for the local people to learn how to protect them, too. We also have programs to help protect threatened gorillas in Nigeria and Cameroon, as well as other conservation programs around the world from protecting frogs in South America to protecting biodiversity in North and South Carolina.
Q: What are your main hopes for people when they come to the North Carolina Zoo?
Anytime people come to the zoo they are helping our conservation efforts locally and globally just by walking in the front door. When people are able to see these great animals in person, it makes them more curious about how they live. We have information all over the zoo and we have programs for people to get involved into should they want to help more.
Q: What is the key takeaway to being a veterinarian at the North Carolina Zoo, and is there any procedure that you have done that made you feel particularly proud?
My main job is to keep the animals healthy and the best way to do that is through preventative care to keep any kind of illness from spreading. We take care of animals here of all sizes from the very tiny poison dart frog to elephants that weigh over 12,000 pounds. I would have to say that one of the most exciting surgeries I've probably done was a c-section on a gorilla. She was having problems in the birthing process and we were able to save the infant gorilla and the mother, so that was definitely one of the more satisfying feelings I've had.
Q: What are some of the strangest things you've had to do in order to help an animal?
Many of the animals are really smart and when we have to collect them to give medication, for instance, we sometimes have to take drastic measures. Some of the chimps recognize me even if I have a mask on, so we've been known to put on some pretty elaborate outfits including pretending to be a bush or whatnot, so that's always a challenge.
Q: What advice can you give people about owning a pet themselves?
Probably the most important thing someone can do is before they actually acquire a pet, is research that pet. A lot of people are surprised to find out that when their pet gets sick they may have to travel hundreds of miles to get to the nearest veterinarian. When you have a typical house cat or a common dog it's not that hard to find a vet, but if you happen to have a tropical bird, snake, or rare lizard, it may be substantially harder to get them care. Also, the costs to take care of animals may be a lot more money than people anticipate, so it's really important to do your research first before you own the animal or pet. Many people get stuck being thousands of dollars in debt or have to travel really far just to get a specialist. Not doing your homework first, even for cats, dogs, and hamsters can bring unexpected problems, and it's better to know these things before you make the decision to be a pet owner. Some people get turtles not realizing that the turtles may outlive them, and in some cases may even outlive their kids, so that's something to also consider.
Q: What are some of your favorite things to do in the Randolph County area other than the zoo? Where do you tell others to go here?
Of course, I love the Zoo., but I also love to go hiking in the Uwharrie Forest nearby, which is great to have that so close. I really like downtown Asheboro for the restaurants there, and I think they've done a really good job at Four Saints Brewery. Having the friendliness of the people who grew up here, and the energy of new people to the area has worked out well and I love being here.