“Caring for our animals is truly a team effort,” said Louden Wright, the veterinarian at the Great Plains Zoo and Delbridge Museum of Natural History. “Our zookeepers work with the animals every day and report any changes in behavior, appetite, or appearance to the veterinary staff.”

The Great Plains Zoo in Sioux Falls has qualified animal care through Wright and registered veterinary technician and registrar Janelle Brandt.

“The veterinary team has also developed a preventive medicine program (PMP) which ensures that all of the animals under our care are routinely evaluated for any undetected medical issues,” said Wright.

Must See

The veterinary team performs regular hoof work on the zoo’s adult female black rhino, Imara, in the indoor area. Keepers have trained her to lay down and present her feet for trimming and other work at the edge of the enclosure.
The experience is voluntary for Imara, so she can get up and be done at any time. Zoo attendees can watch from a few feet away as she lays down on command to participate in her own care.

Through routine health care, the pair uses physical exams, x-rays, ultrasound, bloodwork, and more to nurture more than 120 species and 531 individual animals.

“It helps prevent emergent situations,” said Brandt. “We collaborate with other organizations when needed to ensure we are providing the best care.”

Working with the zoo curator and lead zookeepers, Wright says the veterinary staff also develops and provides the best possible nutritious diets for each species. Feeding is often used as enrichment for the animals by encouraging foraging and natural feeding behaviors that may appear in the wild.

Get to know Brandt and Wright and where they spend time outside of the zoo fences.

Janelle Brandt


The Friday night raffle drawings at Chaser’s Food & Spirits is a great way to end the work week.


I love checking out the shops and boutiques that pop up in the area. A new favorite of mine is DART Boutique at 57th and Western.

“Every day is different: from rhino footwork, duck pond cleaning, raptor rehab, and helping other departments when needed.” – Janelle Brandt


I enjoy all the dog-friendly businesses. My dog and I love patio season.


You can never go wrong with a breakfast burrito from Gilberto’s Mexican Taco Shop. They are fantastic.


I love working with local organizations when needed, like helping South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks relocate a moose and removing a deer from a window well with Animal Control.


Check out these animals at the zoo that are considered vulnerable to critically endangered in their natural habitats.

African Wild Dogs // Endangered

American Bison // Vulnerable

Amur Tiger // Endangered

Chilean Flamingo // Vulnerable

Eastern Bongo // Critically Endangered

Eastern Black Rhinoceros // Critically Endangered

Grevy’s Zebra // Endangered

Humboldt Penguin // Endangered

Inca Tern // Vulnerable

Madagascar Hissing Cockroach // Vulnerable

Red Panda // Endangered

Reticulated Giraffe // Vulnerable

Ring-Tailed Lemur // Vulnerable

Snow Leopard // Endangered

Louden Wright


During warm weather (or what passes for it in South Dakota), you can often find me playing pick-up soccer in Lions Centennial Park on the east side of Sioux Falls. The park system around Sioux Falls is one of my favorite things about the city.


There’s a lot of good food around town, but some of my favorite flavors come from the Shahi Palace India Grill. The Butter Chicken or the Tikka Masala are both fantastic and are worth the post-lunch food coma they will induce. While delicious, I always stick to the most mild spiciness level; anything more than that is too much spice for me.

“The chance to aid in the long term preservation of Black Rhinos in Namibia, snow leopards in Nepal, or Black-Footed ferrets right here in SOuth Dakota really helps to give meaning to our work beyond the zoo’s perimeter fence.” – Louden Wright

6 Random Facts 

1. Brandt traveled to Madagascar to assist with the care of 10,000 radiated tortoises seized from illegal trade.

2. Wright brews his own beer. He says he’s had some tasty batches—including a lavender wheat beer and a chai tea porter—and some less successful batches, such as his cinnamon red hot brown ale.

3. Before working at the zoo, Brandt was lead of the Internal Medicine and Oncology departments at BluePearl. She performed anything from CT scans to chemotherapy on pets.

4. During Wright’s residency in zoological medicine at the San Diego Zoo, he was featured on Animal Planet’s The Zoo: San Diego. They filmed during the second and third years of his residency, and he showed up in several episodes.

5. Brandt can read a schematic. Before going to tech school, she worked at Daktronics in Brookings building scoreboards.

6. Wright has a 3-year-old, 100-pound Doberman “puppy” named Dionysus. He can often be found dragging Wright along behind him on runs along the greenway. Dionysus loves people, and if you see them, feel free to stop them to say hello.


Obscure Brewing Co. is one of my favorite spots in town. My favorite combination is the Tangerine Tempo, a citrus blonde ale, and their Chicken Bacon Ranch pizza.


I am always excited to get outdoors for camping or hiking. The best place I’ve found for that near Sioux Falls is Palisades State Park. There are some gorgeous hikes along the pink quartzite cliffs lining Split Rock Creek, and it has some great campsites that are a short trip from town.


We have a recreational volleyball team made up of zoo employees and a few other friends that play weekly out at Netbinders Volleyball. We play the winter indoor and summer sand volleyball seasons as the aptly named Setting Ducks. We’re not what you would call “good,” but we have a lot of fun getting out on the court or sand to play.

For more information, visit GREATZOO.ORG.

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