Veterinary students travel to Africa for wildlife conservation course

Veterinary students gained intensive hands-on experience and insight into the One Health approach to wildlife conservation during a new immersive course in Africa, June 11-26.

The pilot course, titled Wildlife Medicine in Africa, took 12 veterinary students to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, this summer. The course had been delayed since 2020 due to the pandemic.

“The two-credit course was designed to respond to the growing interest in wildlife health and conservation among our veterinary students,” said Dr. Danielle Frey, Director of Veterinary Student International and Outreach Experiences at the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Frey co-led the course with Dr. Barb Wolfe, associate professor of wildlife health, and a guest instructor, wildlife veterinarian Dr. Mary Wright. The program was organized by the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust (VFWT), based in Victoria Falls National Park.

DVM student Hailey Davis checks the vital signs of an anesthetized elephant in the field.

Upon arrival, the students immersed themselves in a two-day disease and poisoning course, where they learned about common diseases in the region, wildlife-human conflicts in Africa, methods of capture and anesthesia remotely, and how to conduct a post-mortem forensic investigation. They completed the course with a day in a field laboratory, where they learned sample preparation and processing techniques. Field days with wildlife biologist Roger Parry gave students experience in telemetry to track animals for research and protection purposes; remote capture for placement of GPS collars; as well as the treatment of man-made injuries such as snares.

In addition to the experience with African wildlife, the holistic course provided students with a unique perspective on One Health at the wildlife-human interface, according to Frey. One Health refers to a transdisciplinary approach to advancing the health of humans, animals and the environment. Students have accompanied VFWT veterinarians and staff in community-driven efforts to improve the health and protection of domestic livestock and small animals in Zimbabwe. These efforts, in turn, prevent disease transmission to wildlife and humans.

The VFWT team, which included wildlife veterinarians, conservation biologists, laboratory technicians and community liaison officers, provided an overview of the complex issues at the wildlife-human interface in Africa, as well as ongoing innovative solutions. CSU’s team of instructors, with experience in wildlife medicine, research and international community engagement and practice, provided additional expertise and shared experiences. The success of the course paved the way for a long-term collaboration. For more information, contact Dr. Danielle Frey.

Testimonials from students, teachers and partners

“Wildlife medicine and conflict issues are complex and vary greatly from region to region and country to country. Because the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust approaches these issues in a holistic way that focuses on the community, this course provided students with unique, broad and experiential learning in wildlife forensics, remote capture, population monitoring, analysis of laboratory and community engagement to wildlife-human. interface. No other single course could offer such a comprehensive experience. Add to that an engaged and supportive team of teachers, safe and comfortable housing, and a beautiful environment – ​​what a fantastic way to teach CSU students what wildlife health and conflict really is! »
-Dr. Barb Wolfe, DVM, Ph.D., DACZM

“The CSU Wildlife Course in Victoria Falls gave me the opportunity to learn and interact with wildlife in a hands-on way. I always thought I would be interested in wildlife, but I’ve never been exposed. This course allowed me to experience wildlife medicine in the field, giving me a better understanding of the type of medicine I would like to pursue in the future.
-Savannah Kennedy, DVM Class of 2024

“This experience included so many different aspects that aren’t quite covered in the traditional curriculum. Learning about animals and medicine is only a surface. One of the most eye-opening moments was diving head first into a different culture, understanding the people and community that are the backbone of true wildlife conservation. This experience is life changing with countless unforgettable memories. I now know more than ever that this is the right path for me.
-Tiera McAdam, DVM Class of 2024

“This course was instrumental in teaching me the wide variety of skills involved in a career in wildlife conservation as a veterinarian. Working with the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust has been an incredible opportunity to better understand the interdisciplinary challenges that they strive to improve in their area.Working with VFWT stressed that conservation work must include a variety of approaches, including research, anti-poaching theory, laboratory work and post-mortem investigations. , the mitigation of human-wildlife conflict and the many issues at the domestic animal-wildlife interface.For those interested in wildlife health and One Health as a profession, I cannot think of a best way to better understand what you really want from your vocation.
-Jon Maxwell, DVM Class of 2023

“The Graduate Veterinary Student Training Course with CSU is important to the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust as it is a way to inspire those considering a career in veterinary medicine, to consider wildlife and conservation and, of course, to demonstrate how people, livestock, wildlife and ecosystems are interconnected. It is essential that veterinarians keep this interconnection in mind throughout their careers.

“The world needs more wildlife veterinarians and people who understand One Health, especially in developing countries. We hope that this program will not only impart knowledge, but will generate greater interest in global veterinary medicine. Conservation is not a one-species model, but one that is intertwined with all of us, and wildlife veterinarians play a key role in helping us conserve wildlife and improve the livelihoods and health of people. people. This has never been more evident than now after the global coronavirus pandemic.
-Jessica Dawson, CEO of the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust

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