John Ball Zoo

Keeping The Zoo Healthy: Veterinarian Care At John Ball Zoo

Our goal at the John Ball Zoo is to provide the best care possible for all of our over 1100 animals. This care relies on the hard work of many people. Our keepers are at the center of that care. They provide nutritious meals, clean exhibits  andmany forms of training and enrichment. They are also an extremely important part of the veterinary medical care for the animals here at the zoo.


The keepers utilize their training and extensive experience working with the animals to observe their daily behaviors and routines. They often detect very subtle changes that could indicate changes to the animal’s health.  When these changes are noted, the veterinary staff becomes involved.


The Team


My name is Dr. Ryan Colburn, and I am the Zoo Veterinarian for the John Ball Zoo. I am a Grand Rapids native and a graduate of the John Ball Zoo School (sixth grade) and Grand Rapids Christian High School. I received my Bachelor’s degree in Biology from Calvin College and my Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Michigan State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. I joined the staff of the John Ball Zoo in January 2012 and am reminded every day how lucky I am to be part of such a great team, and a wonderful and unique profession.

Every day, I rely heavily on Heather Teater, our Veterinary Technician, who has been working here at the zoo for ten years. Heather earned her degree in Biology from Western Michigan University and worked as a technician at the Animal Clinic, Inc in Grand Rapids prior to joining the JBZ team! She assists me with all aspects of the medical program here at the zoo.

Veterinary Care at the Zoo

The veterinary program at the zoo includes many important factors.

  • ·         Quarantine program for incoming animals
  • ·         Schedule of Annual / Semi-annual Exams for all patients in the zoo
  • ·         Vaccination programs specific to each species
  • ·         Parasite surveillance and control
  • ·         Nutritional Review and Analysis
  • ·         Diagnosis and Treatment of Illness and Injuries


Each species here at the zoo comes with its own unique needs and medical concerns. And like humans and domestic animals, each individual is unique as well. With the help of the zoo keepers and animal management staff, Heather and I strive to provide the best medical care possible for each individual animal here at the zoo. Keep an eye out for future blogs from myself or Heather to learn more about the specific areas of our veterinary program listed above and some of the cases that come through the hospital.