Skip to main content

New York Zoological Society. Department of Animal Health. Office of Chief Veterinarian. Emil P. Dolensek, DVM records

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: 2025

Scope and Content

The collection consists mainly of the records kept by Dr. Emil P. Dolensek as the Chief Veterinarian of the New York Zoological Society. There is also a small amount of correspondence created by Dr. Charles Gandal, who preceded Dolensek as Chief Veterinarian and Dr. Robert Cook, who worked under Dolensek and then was his successor. Records in the collection date from 1958 to 1998, with the majority produced from 1980 to 1990. The largest series contains subject files on individual species and contain animal records (which are restricted), research materials, and correspondence. The collection also contains correspondence relating to the daily activities conducted by the Animal Health Department as well as correspondence with friends and colleagues. Additionally represented are architectural plans and reports concerning the design and building of the new Animal Health Center that opened in 1985. The collection also includes correspondence, research notes, and reports concerning work Dolensek conducted on international projects and other professional activities.


  • 1958-1998


Access Restrictions

This collection is open to researchers; however, certain items in the collection are restricted. Please contact the WCS Archives to request an appointment to view this collection.

Usage Restrictions

Please contact the WCS Archives regarding usage restrictions.

Biographical Note

Emil P. Dolensek, DVM (January 27, 1941-February 7, 1990) was the Chief Veterinarian for the New York Zoological Society (NYZS) from 1969 until his untimely death from cancer in 1990. He began his career at the NYZS as a part-time veterinarian and was promoted to Chief Veterinarian when Dr. Charles Gandal resigned. Dr. Dolensek’s career was punctuated by many accomplishments. In collaboration with Dr. S. K. Liu of the Animal Medical Center, Dolensek was the first to recognize the problems caused by insufficient Vitamin E in zoo animals. Dr. Dolesek was also known for his development of safe immobilization techniques. In 1981 and 1982, Dr. Dolensek traveled to China, as part of a collaborative project between the People’s Republic of China and the World Wildlife Fund, to train Chinese scientists in the collection and freezing of semen from the giant panda. He also traveled to Zaire to assist NYZS’s studies of the status, biology, and conservation of the okapi. Dr. Dolensek was influential in planning the new Animal Health Center that opened in 1985 to replace the original building, which opened in 1916. He also established the first preceptorship program for young zoo veterinarians and regularly lectured about zoo medicine around the country.

Dr. Dolensek was a native of Traverse City, Michigan, and he received his Bachelor’s degree in Zoology (1963) as well as his Doctoral degree in Veterinary Medicine (1967) from Michigan State University. Before coming to NYZS, he worked briefly at an animal hospital in Darien, Connecticut and the Stamford Nature Center in Connecticut.

Dr. Dolensek co-authored the books A practical guide to impractical pets (1976) and The Penguin book of pets: A practical guide to animal-keeping (1978) with his wife Barbara Burn and Help!: A step-by-step manual for the care and treatment of oil-damaged birds (1978) with Joseph Bell. He was the focus of the book Doctor in the Zoo (1974) by Bruce Buchenholz. Dr. Dolensek wrote the column “Medical Center” and other articles for Animal Kingdom as well as publishing many research articles in journals such as the Journal of Veterinary Medicine, the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine, the Journal of Wildlife Diseases, and JAVMA.

From 1982 to 1983, Dr. Dolensek served as President of the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians (AAZV). He also worked with the New York City Audubon Society to protect nature and wildlife in the Bronx and with representatives of Pelham Bay Parks to reduce pollution and insure conservation in that area. He was a member of the City Island Preservation Association, which attempted to combat illegal land use and construction on City Island. Dr. Dolensek fought for the Horse Licensing and Protection Law for carriage horses and against the setting and use of leghold traps in New York State, and he was the Honorary Police Surgeon for the NYC Mounted Police from 1973 to 1989. Additionally, Dr. Dolensek was an authority on ferrets.

In 1989, Dr. Dolensek was awarded the centennial gold medal of the New York State Veterinary Medical Society for his contributions in the field. He also received Michigan State’s College of Veterinary Medicine’s Distinguished Veterinary Alumnus Award, posthumously, in 1995. Finally, the Emil Dolensek Award is given by the AAZV as “an honor presented to a past or present veterinary member of the AAZV who has made an exceptional contribution to the conservation, care, and understanding of zoo and free-ranging wildlife reflecting Emil P. Dolensek’s commitment to these purposes.” The first Emil Dolensek Award was given in 1991.


5.0 Linear Feet (4 cartons, 1 flat box)

Language of Materials



Emil P. Dolensek, DVM (1941-1990), was the Chief Veterinarian for the New York Zoological Society from 1969 to 1990. This collection includes animal records (which are restricted), correspondence, reports, research notes, architectural diagrams, manuscripts, and a small number of photographs. The majority of records in this collection concentrate on the daily activities of the Department of Animal Health headed by Dr. Dolensek as Chief Veterinarian. Other records in the collection relate to the planning and construction of a new Animal Health Center, international research projects, and Dr. Dolensek’s other professional activities.


The collection is arranged in six series with additional subseries divisions:

(1) Correspondence (arranged chronologically), 1969-1994 (1a): Gandal, Charles (Chief Veterinarian, 1958-1969), 1969 (1b): Dolensek, Emil P. (Chief Veterinarian, 1969-1990), 1970-1989 (1c): Cook, Robert A. (Veterinarian/Chief Veterinarian, 1989-2007), 1985-1994

(2) Minutes (arranged chronologically): 1986-1988 (2a): Animal Health Meetings, 1986 (2b): New York Zoological Society Staff Meetings, 1986-1988

(3) Zoo Biology Subject Files (arranged alphabetically with the exception of folders for Avians, Marine Mammals, and Primates, which appear at the beginning of the series): 1958-1998

(4) Records Relating to Animal Health Center Construction (design plans arranged chronologically; all other files arranged alphabetically): 1981-1991 (4a): Animal Health Center, 1981-1989 (4b): Emil P. Dolensek Research Suite, 1989-1991

(5) Records Relating to International Projects (original order maintained): 1981-1988 (5a): China, 1981-1986 (5b): Other countries, 1986-1988

(6) Records Relating to Other Professional Activities (arranged alphabetically): 1987-1991 (6a): AAZP, 1987 (6b): Bronx Council for Environmental Quality, 1987 (6c): Curriculum vitae (6d): Lectures (6e): Manuscripts (6f): NYC Mounted Police, 1991

Related Collections

Collection 2026. Animal Health Department records, circa 1930-1987.

Collection 2029. Charles P. Gandal records, circa 1954-1969 (bulk 1966-1969).

Processing and Finding Aid Information

Finding aid created and collection processed by Lisa Winkler, Rutgers University, 2011.

Guide to the Records of the New York Zoological Society Department of Animal Health Chief Veterinarian, Emil P. Dolensek, 1959-1998 2025
Finding aid prepared by Lisa Winkler, Rutgers University Intern
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Wildlife Conservation Society Archives Repository

WCS Library/Archives
2300 Southern Blvd
Bronx New York 10460 United States