During my time at veterinary university I have been lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend a total of four weeks working at a conservationist zoo in the South East.
My first two weeks at the zoo were spent in 2013 working in the hoofstock team. I got involved in the feeding, cleaning and general care of animals including: Brazilian Tapirs, Black Rhino, Capybara, Greater Kudu, a variety of Deer species and Anteaters (really they should be called the hoofstock AND miscellaneous species team!). I was also able to observe the crating and transportation of several Black Rhino and I learnt a few DIY skills whilst helping to build a new tapir shed (which, somewhat remarkably, is still standing!).
I later returned to the zoo in 2015 and 2016 to spend two further weeks with their veterinary team where my work was very varied and included: performing a dental examination on a DeBrazza Monkey, monitoring the anaesthetic of a lemur, performing post mortems on an agouti and an axis deer and blood sampling baboons. I find comparative anatomy fascinating so it was really great to have the opportunity to get up close and involved with such a range of species.
Additionally I observed many interesting activities and procedures, including: the positive reward based training of an elephant, sedation of animals using a blowpipe and a Dan-Inject dart gun as well as the examination (albeit very limited unless sedation was involved!) and treatment of multiple exotic species. It was remarkable to experience the stark differences in handling and managing this incredible range of exotic species but in contrast to also identify the clear similarities in physiology and disease processes.
Moving to much smaller species from much closer to home, a two week placement at a wildlife hospital in 2016 resulted again in me getting very hands on with very unusual patients. Although specific teaching on the matter is very limited in veterinary degrees, injured wild animals are often taken into veterinary practice and require help so I chose this particular placement to help enable me to best care for my wildlife patients in future (plus the added component of a five hour round trip everyday did help me get some reading done!). Assisting with the examination and treatment of every new patient into the hospital as well as the daily check-ups of all the inpatients with medical needs allowed me to gain vital experience and knowledge in treating wildlife. I additionally gained practical skills in handling tricky patients (i.e. dealing with spiky hedgehogs and pecking birds) as well as in the subcutaneous and intravenous injection of birds of various sizes. The patients themselves included: a huge variety of baby and adult birds of all sizes, foxes, hedgehogs, mice, rats, squirrels and even the odd badger. I thoroughly enjoyed working with such a variety of patients but the absolute highlight of my time at the wildlife hospital had to be releasing recovered animals back into the wild – a truly rewarding experience.
If you have any questions about my experience working with exotic or wildlife species, please do get in touch.
With many thanks to everyone in the hoofstock and veterinary team for having me as well as Wildlife Aid for your kind help and hard work!