Saving endangered species through veterinary expertise

Our team of veterinary specialists is on hand to help conservationists and local vets who are battling to save endangered species worldwide. There is a vital medical side to conservation which is all too often forgotten. And yet it’s beginning to play a bigger and bigger role in the success of projects to save animals like the Amur tiger, African painted dog and even the UK’s own pine martens.

WVI provides a service to the international conservation community. We don’t run our own projects. Instead we work in partnership with government and non-government organisations, supporting their conservation initiatives.

There is a vital medical side to conservation which is all too often forgotten. WVI saves endangered species through delivering veterinary expertise to the heart of conservation.

Few of the countries where we work provide any wildlife health training for vets or field biologists. In addition, there tends to be very limited, if any, capacity for analysing samples. Often, the only initial possibility is to have samples analysed in the UK.

We help to develop the capacity of field staff, wildlife and forestry departments, local vets and diagnostic facilities wherever we can. When visiting a project, our vets give as much clinical assistance as they are able in what is usually a short space of time, often just a couple of weeks. They will demonstrate anaesthesia and surgical techniques, as well as providing training on any new equipment and on how to collect and store samples correctly for disease analysis.

In the process, we provide on-the-job training for local staff, as well as advising on all the veterinary aspects of the conservation project. We are always ready to help devise new protocols and practices as the need arises. We also run specific training courses when appropriate.

A major focus of our work on the ground is collecting data and samples which can be fed into studies about the risk of disease to a particular species. We help local staff, vets and volunteers build their capacity for surveying, identifying and responding to any outbreaks of disease.

It’s not just the particular endangered species that will benefit from this work; other local wildlife, livestock, pets and people also stand to gain. For example, our distemper and rabies vaccination clinics in Zimbabwe protect not just African painted dogs, but local domestic pets and their owners as well.

Our vets typically follow up any hands-on training with bespoke manuals for particular projects. These will cover everything from welfare issues and the correct handling of the animals involved, to understanding the analysis of samples taken in the field. They stay in touch with our projects electronically and provide ongoing support.

WVI believes that developing local wildlife knowledge, along with the capacity to measure and analyse disease in the country where a project is actually based, are key aspects in making sure that conservations efforts are sustainable in the long term.

We aim to bring together relevant material and experience from around the world, and in the future want to make much more of this information accessible online, where it can be easily shared.

The projects WVI supports fall under four themes:

Translocation and Reintroduction of Carnivores

Translocation is when animals are moved from one site to another, in order to benefit the species as a whole. A reintroduced population is one which has been re-established by humans in an area that was once part of the animal’s historic range.

Wildlife Medicine for Endangered Island Species

This work includes disease surveillance, captive and wild breeding programmes, and translocation. At the moment, we are investigating a mysterious disease which has been killing endangered birds in the Seychelles.

Rehabilitation of Endangered Species

Where species are down to very low numbers, every individual counts. WVI ensures that rehabilitated animals are physically able to survive when released responsibly back to the wild, or able to reproduce in a managed captive breeding situation.

Disease Surveillance Programmes for Carnivores

As populations decrease in size, the threat from disease increases. Knowing what the disease threats are enables conservationists to take mitigating measures. WVI has expertise in setting up disease surveillance programmes for carnivores.

 

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Saving some of the planet’s rarest creatures from extinction needs expert help, and WVI can supply that when and where it’s needed.

Steve Leonard, Veterinary Surgeon and TV Presenter

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WVI is indebted to the generous individuals and organisations whose ongoing support - financial, moral and in kind - allows us to deliver our conservation objectives.