Dr. Ray Ball, ZooTampa’s senior veterinarian who is accused of using experimental drugs to treat manatees, among other things, is stepping down after 9 years with the organization.
The zoo made the announcement in a statement Friday, saying Ball will leave to pursue academic opportunities. The zoo didn't say what those opportunities are exactly.
"We are grateful for Dr. Ball’s years of service and dedication, and his enormous contributions to the care and well-being of zoo animals and the conservation of wildlife during his tenure," said ZooTampa in the statement. "Among his numerous successes are his leadership in achieving the first and only American Animal Hospital Association certification for a zoological institution, and his efforts in helping make ZooTampa a leading provider of exceptional veterinary care for Florida panthers and other iconic native wildlife."
ZooTampa will begin the search for a new senior veterinarian, and Lauren Smith will continue to serve as the interim lead veterinarian.
Last November the zoo was ordered to "cease all activities involving manatees" after Ball was charged with mistreating the animals. Allegations against Ball included releasing manatees back into the wild with open wounds and exposed bones, performing in-field amputations of flippers, using experimental drugs on the animals, and incorrectly performing a thoracocentesis, or a "chest tap," on the manatees. He was also charged with killing two manatees.
After a lengthy suspension, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved ZooTampa to once again allowed to accept rescue manatees last March.