As a Costa Rican Vet, many people think that it is easy for me to understand conservation, but I have always had many questions about it. I have always felt that part of my purpose is to protect our forests, animals and biodiversity, but the truth is that I don’t really know what this means, apart from the obvious.
So, what is the role of a veterinarian in the area of conversation and Wildlife, what is conservation medicine and how can we make conscious changes to help?
If you keep reading, I will attempt to answer all these questions, and if you have considered this career path, I will provide some tips.
What is a Conservation Vet?
It’s important to note that there is no single definition for this term, I think it will depend on who you ask and what that person does for a living.
We have Conservation Veterinarians working with wildlife rehabilitation, zoo, exotic medicine, research, and free-ranging wildlife veterinary medicine. You might wonder what the difference is between each of these, and the difference is the role of the veterinary doctor.
For example, in wildlife rehabilitation, zoo, exotic medicine, the vet will focus more on the clinical side and on the health of their individual patients. In the area of research, the vet will devote his or her life to specialising in topics essential for working with endangered species and wildlife in general. They provide monitoring of the establishment of markers to assess the welfare of populations in the wild.
Free-ranging wildlife veterinary focuses on the health of wildlife populations and ecosystem health and often work for federal, state or non-governmental organisations. They rarely treat the animals themselves but focus on keeping the habitat of these animals safe and for the humans who live in it, as well as having control of emerging diseases. It goes very much hand in hand with educating people.
What is Conservation Medicine?
Conservation medicine is the field that combines veterinary science, conservation biology and public health to address animal, human and ecological health.
The demand that humans have created on nature has had very negative effects. It is said that 1.3% of mammals and 1.2% of birds have been made extinct and it was only relatively recently that we realised the importance of ecosystem health even for public health.
According to the OIE, 5 infectious diseases appear in humans every year and 3 of these 5 come from animals. In one of my courses at university, it was estimated that 60% of the diseases that exist today are zoonotic.
The role of the veterinarian is very important because thanks to our skills and knowledge we can not only help to protect public health but also to care for, teach and above all to conserve the animal life that is so important for our ecosystem, which we also obtain our food.
In my opinion, the first step to make conscious conservation changes is to be informed, in each country there is so much to do, that we don’t need to go to another continent to generate change.
Putting our skills and knowledge into practice, as veterinarians, we often feel that we don’t have time, but if you are interested in this subject, you should start by volunteering, there you will realise how many hands are needed, and how many things we don’t know. The experience will also help you discover the kind of veterinarian that you want to be
Start talking about the issue, give it the importance it deserves and look for platforms that we can support, for example, this one, Saving the Survivors https://www.savingthesurvivors.org which supports the work of many veterinarians so that they can continue to do their work with these animals.
- Join wildlife organisations, do externships and internships, volunteer, consider a Master’s degree in Preventive Veterinary Medicine or Conservation Medicine.
- If you would like to find out more you should follow Dr Chloe Buting, she is a vet from Australia known as the Jungle Doctor and on her website, you can find programmes, volunteering and lots of information about being a Wildlife Vet. https://jungledoctor.org
- If you are from the UK, you should follow Kate’s Wildlife blog, where you can find out what is happening in the UK and how you can help, support and stay informed. https://kateonconservation.com/category/blog-feed/
- You can also find information on the European Wildlife services, where you can find workshops and courses. https://www.europeanwildlifeservices.com
Now that we’ve learned about and explored these topics, I hope you’ll be inspired to conduct more research, get more knowledge, and get involved!