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Saving the world’s wild tigers from disease

Wildlife Vets International has always been closely involved with tiger conservation around the world. We currently support projects in Russia, Bangladesh, Indonesia and India which provide vital veterinary input to local tiger conservation efforts. Our access to a wealth of expertise and experience in this area means WVI is in a unique position to help tigers, and those working to save them, wherever they are found.

The demand for this kind of specialist veterinary support has grown considerably in recent years, and in response we are committed to developing a comprehensive, coordinated, support programme for those who work in wild tiger conservation and management, via our Tiger Health Programme (THP). 
Often this means working in coalition with other wildlife veterinary experts – an approach that we think is essential if tigers are to benefit from the very best expertise available.

As numbers of any endangered species get smaller, the risk of a disease like Canine Distemper Virus wiping them out becomes very real.

Donate to help us save the world’s tigers

We believe that the five core pillars set out below create a very effective framework for saving one of the planet’s most magnificent animals.


WVI believes that targeted training of local vets and field biologists working with tigers is one of the most important aspects of supporting any tiger conservation programme. Local training in anaesthesia and clinical examination techniques is often rudimentary, and knowledge of disease investigation and prevention can be very basic. Effective training is crucial to ensuring real and long lasting improvements in the veterinary aspects of any programme.

Workshops and practical activities usually take place locally, but occasionally WVI brings relevant professionals to the UK for more specialised training.

Practical Clinical Help

Knowing how to safely and humanely trap, handle, examine, take samples from, and sometimes treat wild tigers is fundamental to any tiger conservation project. WVI has been able to provide these practical services on the ground to organisations involved in radio-collaring of tigers. We have also been brought in to help resolve human-tiger conflict situations, where, for example, a tiger may have started visiting a village and needs to be captured and relocated. Carrying out clinical work in the field in this way also provides excellent opportunities for training local vets in the process.

Due to their rarity, every wild tiger is important. Efforts to rehabilitate injured or orphaned individuals and return them to the wild will inevitably become increasingly important in the future, and WVI is already helping with this activity in Russia. WVI Veterinary Partner, Dr. John Lewis, works closely with the Alexeevka Tiger and Leopard Rehabilitation Centre in the Russian Far East, and has been supporting local vet, Misha Gonchuruk, since the centre opened in 2012. Dr. Lewis currently visits twice a year to give practical on-the-job clinical advice and training, and advise on disease sampling. In-between visits, he is always on hand to help via email or Skype. Alexeevka has quickly evolved to provide world-class rehabilitation, with some excellent results to date.

Disease Investigation

WVI is engaged in developing ways to analyse and ultimately mitigate the risk of disease to tigers. This is essential work illustrated by the emerging threat of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) to wild tigers. It is time consuming and long-term work, and therefore one of the more expensive elements of the THP, but absolutely essential if the long- term survival of the tiger is to be guaranteed.

Concern is growing worldwide about the possible impact of Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) on dwindling and fragmenting tiger populations. Click here to find out more about CDV and tigers.

The world’s tigers are facing a new threat from a deadly disease. In recent years, Canine Distemper Virus (CDV) has begun to affect wild tigers. It has already caused the deaths of tigers in Russia and India, and could well be affecting tigers in Indonesia and other range states. With tigers already under serious threat, the emergence of CDV could make it all the harder to save them from extinction. As populations of an endangered species get smaller, the risk of a disease wiping them out becomes very real.

Understanding how Canine Distemper Virus is able to infect and cause serious disease in tigers is a vital step to controlling it and has the potential to make a real difference to tigers’ survival. WVI is currently involved in a vital initiative in Sumatra to monitor the probable emergence of CDV there, and examine ways to combat it. Such work will benefit tigers everywhere.

Canine Distemper Virus: A New Threat to Tigers
click here to read more about this new threat

Information and Advice

WVI provides information and advice to a large number of tiger-related projects in many countries, and is always ready to do more. Our founder, Dr. John Lewis, is the veterinary advisor to the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria’s (EAZA) captive breeding programme for Amur and Sumatran Tigers and regularly gives advice relating to both captive and wild tigers.

Much of this work is done on-line and is therefore not expensive. When it goes live in July 2019, the new and comprehensive Wild Tiger Health Centre website which Dr. Lewis has been developing over a number of years will allow tiger professionals from around the globe to access and exchange a wide range of expertise. The website is the first of its kind for any species and will be a source of free, peer-reviewed information as well as a catalyst for building connections and encouraging cooperation between vets and biologists encountering similar issues in different tiger range states.


Research into tiger health is urgently needed on a wide variety of fronts. At present WVI has a particular interest in tiger anaesthesia. We previously developed simple gas anaesthetic equipment which can be used in the field. In the near future we will be investigating in detail how tigers metabolise various anaesthetic drugs – information that will be critical for developing new and safer anaesthetic practices for tigers. WVI is also analysing the records of hundreds of anaesthetics carried out on tigers in zoos in order to identify risks that can then be avoided when wild tigers have to be anaesthetised in the field.

Project Supporters:

Long term supporters of WVI’s tiger work include:

  • Chessington World of Adventures
  • Etihad Airways
  • Friends of Paradise Wildlife Park
  • Global Biofuels Trading Inc
  • Virbac UK
  • Colchester Zoo
  • Shepreth Wildlife Conservation Charity
  • Yorkshire Wildlife Park
  • Wildlife Heritage Foundation
  • Zoological Society of London
  • Photography for Big Cats

.....And many individuals

What your donation means:

  • £20 to vaccinate a domestic dog creating disease barrier for endangered carnivores
  • £42 will anaesthetise a 200kg Bengal tiger
  • £80 to test blood for disease
  • £500 for a day’s training from an expert field vet.

Can you help us funding research that could save tigers the world over?