January 21, 2021
A Tradition of Excellent Veterinary Care: Charles Paul Gandal
- as seen by -Paul P. Calle
The Wildlife Conservation Society’s (then the New York Zoological Society) Bronx Zoo opened to the public on November 8, 1899. Dr. Charles Paul Gandal, or Chick as he was affectionately called, was a 1951 graduate of Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, where he was also captain of the polo team. He began as the Bronx Zoo’s Assistant Veterinarian on January 1, 1951, the first time a second veterinarian was part of the animal health department, was promoted to Associate Veterinarian in 1956 during Dr. Leonard Goss’s tenure as Chief Veterinarian, and succeeded Dr. Goss as the fifth Chief Veterinarian from 1958-1969.
Dr. Gandal pioneered and perfected anesthesia techniques for reptiles, birds, and mammals, and the use of dart guns for remote administration of treatments and anesthetics. He obtained bone-pinning equipment for orthopedic procedures that were very successful, and he was recognized for his expertise in bird surgery. Other advances included use of antibiotic sensitivity testing to improve antibiotic selection, intravenous fluid and electrolyte treatments, and the study of hoofed animal diseases. Expansion of preventive medical protocols during his tenure included quarantine of new arrivals, parasite screening and treatments, primate tuberculin testing, psittacosis testing of birds, and vaccination of susceptible species for various viral infections. Nutrition advances included successful treatment of muscle disease in nyala and prevention of bone disease in birds, cats, and primates through vitamin and mineral supplements. In 1962, he oversaw significant renovations to the Bronx Zoo Animal Hospital that opened in 1916. These included reconfiguration of rooms to better separate human traffic and animal areas, installation of a new radiograph (x-ray) machine (in the image above, Dr. Gandal is reviewing a radiograph of the leg of an arthritic mammal), and other needed physical plant updates.
Dr. Gandal initiated a number of comparative medical approaches to enhance care provided to Bronx Zoo animals. This included working closely with a human dentist, Dr. Theodore Kazimiroff, to improve dental treatments for zoo animals and with Dr. John Budinger, Pathologist and Director of Laboratories at Lawrence Hospital who became a New York Zoological Society Fellow and then a Consultant in Pathology. This began a productive pathology collaboration that enhanced the knowledge of diseases of Bronx Zoo animals. In 1964, a relationship was developed with Manhattan’s Animal Medical Center for comparative pathology and cardiovascular research, and the close relationship between WCS’s Zoological Health Program and AMC continues to this day. Research samples were provided to museums, universities, and research laboratories throughout his tenure. Dr. Gandal also provided veterinary care for animals at the New York Aquarium and consultation services to both the Central Park and Prospect Park Zoos, long before these zoos became part of the Wildlife Conservation Society. He served as third president of American Association of Zoo Veterinarians from 1960-1962, and subsequent Bronx Zoo Chief Veterinarians similarly held that post, including myself.
Dr. Gandal hosted tours and visitors including veterinary students, zoo veterinarians, human dental students, government officials, and professional colleagues. Results of his research appeared in both popular and professional publications and resulted in his recognition as a world-renowned authority in zoo medicine. Dr. Gandal regularly gave popular talks and professional presentations to students and peers at local and national veterinary conferences. He corresponded with both professional colleagues and the public, including children and owners of uncommon pets, reflecting his love of the animals for which he cared. In 1969, he left the zoo and established a thriving equine practice, which he ran with unprecedented integrity and love for his clients and animals, often saying, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
He died peacefully at home July 2, 2012, surrounded by family and beloved animals.