My Introduction to Marine Mammal Medicine

Four dolphins jump gracefully out of the water at Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo, Florida

Island Dolphin Care in Key Largo, Florida is a not-for-profit organization that offers dolphin-assisted therapy programs to children, adults with special needs, and their families and caregivers. The founders, Deena and Peter Hoagland, created the organization back in 1997 after their son personally experienced the healing powers that dolphin-assisted therapy can offer. At the age of 3, the Hoagland’s son, Joe, suffered a stroke while undergoing his third open-heart surgery resulting in severe weakness on the left side of his body. The Hoagland’s eventually brought Joe to a local dolphin swim facility where he interacted with dolphins as a form of physical therapy. Over time, Joe was able to make a full recovery because of a special bond with a dolphin named Fonzie, which inspired Deena and Peter to provide the same opportunity for others.

Performing a routine physical exam on one of the dolphins

In addition to providing therapy swims, Island Dolphin Care hosts approximately 80 students throughout the year from various fields to participate in an introduction to marine mammal medicine course. Students enrolled gain hands-on experience in the veterinary care of Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins while learning about their anatomy and behavior. Veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and trainers work directly with the students in small groups to educate the next generation of marine mammal enthusiasts. As an aspiring marine mammal and aquatic-focused veterinarian, this introductory experience proved to be truly invaluable and served as an excellent introduction to marine mammal medicine in a real-life clinical setting.

As a first-year veterinary student, I was very nervous and unsure of my potential for success in this program. I hadn’t completed any advanced clinical or diagnostic courses yet and my hands-on veterinary experience up to that point was limited to domestic terrestrial species. However, I felt reassured upon arriving when I discovered that my classmates, all with different backgrounds and experiences, had never worked with dolphins in a clinical setting either.

Danny entices a dolphin to demonstrate one of its learned behaviors

Every morning, students started their day in the commissary to learn about the feeding protocols. Different fish species were fed in different ratios for nutritional and enrichment purposes and to promote learned behaviors. For example, fatty herring was a large component of most diets because of the high omega-3 fatty acid content. Following this, we would normally make our way to the pool to begin our physical exams. Every day, each student was assigned a different dolphin to conduct a physical exam on. My two favorite dolphins to work with were Sarah and Squirt, the two matriarchs of the pod, because they consistently reminded the trainers that the dolphins were in charge of the relationship. Students were tasked with obtaining relevant history and information from the different trainers prior to their exam and were expected to write full reports with recommended treatments following the exams. We were also charged with evaluating current medications, the purpose for treatment, and recommending changes should any be necessary. I remember my surprise in finding out that female dolphin reproductive physiology is so similar to that of horses, that female dolphins can also take Regumate as a form of birth control while in captivity.

Danny performs an abdominal ultrasound

Throughout the week, we also attended lectures focusing on dolphin digestive and reproductive anatomy, how to perform diagnostic testing procedures, and on the learned behaviors that are critical for both medical procedures and enrichment. This information was then used to perform daily ultrasounds on the dolphins. Outside of a basic introduction as a technician before school and then briefly again in school, I barely had any experience with ultrasonography. Despite my lack of prior training, before my week at Island Dolphin Care was over, I was able to conduct a complete digestive and reproductive ultrasound on a dolphin and write a report on my findings.

Later in the week, we were taught how to draw blood from a dolphin’s ventral superficial fluke vein, make a blood smear, and perform cell counts. We also learned how to evaluate erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) test results. This test, which isn’t commonly used in terrestrial veterinary medicine, is a crucial marine mammal diagnostic tool used to detect an inflammatory response by measuring how quickly erythrocytes can settle in a tube overtime.

I’ll never forget the time I spent at Island Dolphin Care because I was able to learn crucial hands-on techniques early in my veterinary education that will help make me a better and more prepared veterinarian. Having learned these skills at a facility like Island Dolphin Care only made the experience more unique and meaningful.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Danny Ruvolo, class of 2022, is a veterinary student originally from Staten Island, New York. Danny received his B.S. in Biology with minors in chemistry and psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University and his M.B.S. from Rutgers University School of Graduate Studies. He is interested in exotic, zoo, and aquarium medicine and aspires to one day treat as many species as he can.

 

So you want to get a pet bird…

A pair of scarlet macaws

Birds make wonderful companions, since they are such social and vocal animals. However, there are some considerations that every new bird owner should make before deciding to take on a lifelong, feathery companion. Yes, birds can live a long time, so owning a bird is a long-term, sometimes even lifelong commitment! Smaller species such as budgies and cockatiels can live for 20 years, while larger parrot species can live up to 50 years. Additionally, birds tend to have extremely social natures, and can therefore, develop self-destructive or aggressive behavioral problems if they are not adequately socialized.

Different species of birds have varying needs, and depending on your lifestyle, one type of bird may be a much better option for you than another. So before you purchase the toys, bird seed, and housing, you have to decide on which bird you’d like to make your companion. Here are some common pet bird species and some things you should consider before you choose the bird that you want to share your home with.

A pair of wild budgerigars

Budgerigars and cockatiels are, by far, the best companions for novice birders, due largely to their small size and ease of care. They are very clever and social birds, and a lot of fun.

Budgerigars (budgies) are the most abundant psittacine species in the world. Originally from Australia, these small birds are generally easy to keep. Their needs are easily met in captivity, and they tend to be great pets. Adult males have blue ceres (the fleshy covering just above their beak that includes nostrils), while adult females have tan colored ceres.

Cockatiels are the smallest of all the cockatoo species. They have a characteristic, movable crest on their head. Also from Australia, these birds are highly social and often live in large, nomadic flocks in the wild. Like the budgie, their needs are easily met in captivity. Because of their gregarious nature, they bond and interact with humans very well and tend to be great pets. Adult females are grey in color, while adult males have a yellow face with a grey body. Females have a tendency to become chronic egg layers, but be advised that you should not remove the eggs. These birds have a feedback mechanism that tells them to brood over a clutch of eggs and to stop further egg laying, but if the eggs are constantly being removed, the hen continues to lay them, resulting in depleted calcium reserves. Also, sexual activity in these birds can be stimulated by dark nesting places or mushy food, which can sometimes lead to aggression.

Sulfur-crested cockatoo

Cockatoos are both much larger and louder than cockatiels. There are about 30 different species of cockatoos, each with their own characteristics. Generally speaking, these birds form very close pair bonds, and their highly social nature can make them more difficult to care for in captivity. They are very smart, and can learn that loud vocalizations result in receiving attention, making them one of the most commonly relinquished pet bird species. Cockatoos may also develop some negative behaviors, such as feather picking. Also, if someone in the household has allergies, be aware that these birds tend to have lots of powder down feathers, which can produce a lot of dust.

Conures are a group of small to medium sized parrots, but don’t let their small stature fool you, it is not representative of their volume. These birds are very loud, and, like the cockatoos, are also often given up within the first year of ownership.

Eclectus parrots and lovebirds tend to have more aggressive females than males. Wild female eclectus parrots are typically the birds that defend the nesting cavity, while the males forage and bring back food. Hence, the hens tend to be more dominant and aggressive than the males. Lovebirds in general tend to be aggressive towards other bird species as well, so avoid keeping them together with other bird species.

Amazon parrots are intelligent, outgoing species. Potential amazon owners should be aware that male amazons, around the time of sexual maturity and each subsequent breeding season (springtime), can become aggressive. They can also be aggressive when stressed. African grey parrots, on the other hand, are a more introspective species, and when they are stressed, tend to develop self destructive behaviors, such as feather plucking/destruction, rather than become aggressive towards other animals and people.

Macaws are the largest of the parrot species. They are highly intelligent and full of energy, which can make them a challenging pet for an inexperienced bird handler. They also have a very strong bite, so housing and toys need to be selected carefully.

An African grey parrot

Remember, when looking for your bird companion, to look for reputable breeders. Illegal poaching and smuggling of many of the above named species is a real issue, and contributes to the decline of wild populations. A good and reputable breeder, however, will properly care for and socialize the chicks to humans prior to your obtaining the bird, which reduces risk of the development of aggressive behaviors.

Once you’ve made the decision on which bird you want to love and interact with at home, then you can think about your bird’s toys, food, and housing. Remember that a lot of the husbandry is based on the bird’s natural history.

More social species tend to do well with companions, but remember that the birds need the ability to move away from each other if necessary. If they cannot move away from each other because their housing is too small, the birds can become stressed and develop disease.

When considering cages, always remember that it should be large enough for the bird to completely spread its wings without touching sides of cage. The bird should be able to move around and exercise within the confines of its home. One should also consider the strength of the cage if one is bringing home a bird with a strong bite, like a macaw. Make sure it’s a cage that you can easily clean and keep hygienic for the animal.

Stock the cage with toys and perches appropriate for the species that you are housing. Provide a box or nest area for the bird to hide when it is stressed. Provide perches without abrasive surfaces and made out of a safe, untreated wood material, because sometimes birds may chew on their wooden perches. The perch should be large enough that when wrapping their toes around it, the bird’s toes cover 75% of the perch’s circumference, allowing for even distribution of the bird’s weight. Never place their food and water directly below a perch, because birds will invariably poop in it.

A pair of rainbow lorikeets

Make sure you understand and provide the optimal environmental condition for your species of bird. The vast majority of psittacine species come from tropical locations around the world, so generally, keep them warm and provide a heat source. However, different birds have different requirements, so make sure you understand heating, lighting, humidity, noise level, and nutritional/dietary specifications for your bird. For example, while most parrots are granivorous, meaning that they feed on fresh fruits, veggies, and seeds, the lory and lorikeet species are nectivorous, so they require a specialized nectar diet. Remember that seed alone is not a sufficient diet for any parrot species. Make sure you speak to your veterinarian about how to provide an adequately balanced diet for your avian companion.

Remember that psittacine species tend to be very highly social and active birds. In the wild, they spend much of their time looking for food and communicating with conspecifics. Therefore, in captivity, they need to be given lots of socialization time, as well as challenges to solve to reduce any chances of development of destructive behaviors. Providing food in foraging toys or challenge boxes will help provide some enrichment for your feathery friend.

Always remember to consult your local exotics veterinarian with any husbandry or health related questions about your new companion!


Acknowledgements

I would like to acknowledge the various professors and veterinarians that I personally have learned about bird care from, who have enriched my avian education, and especially Dr. Donna Muscarella, who inspired the idea for this article, and aided my writing it.


For more information please check out the following websites:

The World Parrot Trust: www.parrots.org  – Check out his website for more detailed information regarding characteristics and care of various parrot species.

Good Bird Inc. http: www.goodbirdinc.com  – Check out this website for information on companion parrot behavior and positive reinforcement methods to reinforce the parrot-human bond.


Note: All images were taken from the public domain.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mary Nasr, class of 2020, is from Staten Island, NY. She received her Bachelor of Science from Rutgers University in 2016, with a major in Animal Science. She is passionate about zoo and wildlife medicine, conservation, and education, and aspires to build a career around zoo/wildlife surgery and anesthesia.

From Bees to Big Cats at the Special Species Symposium 2019

A banner welcomes students to the Symposium

Conservation, exotics, and wildlife are increasingly popular fields within veterinary medicine and last week Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine hosted the Special Species Symposium to shine a light on various topics within these fields. The Special Species Symposium brought speakers from a variety of backgrounds as well as students from Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, and University of Montreal together to discuss zoo, exotic, and wildlife medicine.

Dr. Robin Radcliffe presents about bee health

Topics discussed ranged from utilizing pathology in conservation to antibiotic therapy in pocket pets to marine mammal rehabilitation. Students also had the opportunity to participate in a number of wet labs including invertebrate clinical skills, darting, turtle shell repair, and avian orthopedics. The symposium opened on Saturday with a lecture from Dr. Robin Radcliffe about honey bee health and the developing role of veterinarians in honey bee management. Dr. Radcliffe discussed the agricultural and economic value of bees and the new federal regulations that require veterinarians to prescribe antibiotics for bee colonies. For the rest of the symposium we got to choose which speakers we wanted to listen to. I listened to Dr. Karen Terio’s lecture, where she discussed the importance of pathology in conservation and how it contributes to species health. She finished by advising those aspiring to work in conservation to develop a skill and use that to market themselves.

Dr. Terio was followed by Dr. Peter DiGeronimo, who gave a lecture on marine mammal rehabilitation and how it affects ocean health. He described how rehabilitation can have conservation, scientific, and social benefits. Wildlife rehabilitators have the most contact with free-ranging wildlife, and can act as sentinels to monitor emerging diseases arising in wild populations. This is especially important in species with low population numbers because the individuals that are able to be returned to the wild have even greater impacts on the species as a whole. He emphasized the role that wildlife rehabilitation centers can play in providing data about various species that researchers may not be able to gather. Finally, he stressed the importance of researchers establishing good relationships with rehabilitators to break down the distrust that some have regarding the motives of researchers.

One of the last lectures on Saturday was on the care and conservation of large felids, given by Dr. Michael McEntire. He discussed various aspects of managing large felids in captivity such as the necessary housing requirements,  safety protocols, and restraint techniques. He emphasized the importance of behavioral restraint which involves training animals in certain ways to make them easier to handle and decrease the associated stress. For example, you can train them to present their tails for blood draws or their flanks for injections, and in this way avoid having to anesthetize them for what should be relatively simple procedures. Then Dr. McEntire transitioned to felid diseases such as vitamin A deficiency, myelopathy in cheetahs, and canine distemper virus in lions. Other lectures given on Saturday included an overview of amphibian diagnostics, a session of clinical updates from the Janet L. Swanson Wildlife Health Center, and an update on emerging infectious diseases in reptiles.

Demonstration of how to handle invertebrates, such as the tarantula pictured

During the Saturday afternoon lab sessions, I participated in the invertebrate clinical skills lab. The lab was split between arachnids and marine invertebrates. We learned proper handling techniques of arachnids and how to identify common health problems such as dehydration, or how to ensure the tarantula is able to molt appropriately. We also learned ways a clinician could correct these issues or advise an owner in correcting them. Additionally, we were taught proper anesthesia protocols for lobsters and learned some necessary anatomy for horseshoe crabs and various bivalves including oysters and clams.

Attending students from all schools pose after the first day of the symposium

The highlight of Saturday, and the symposium in general, was the keynote speaker Dr. Susan Bartlett. Dr. Bartlett is a veterinarian for the Wildlife Conservation Society and she discussed her path to getting that position. She explained how she dealt with various hurdles on her journey, such as having to reapply to veterinary school after not getting in the first time. She emphasized the importance of persistence and shared an anecdote of how she worked at a zoo scooping poop in order to gain elephant experience. Her determination eventually gave her the opportunity to accompany a research team and travel internationally to study elephants. Additionally, Dr. Bartlett discussed how the TV show, The Zoo, has helped to improve public perception of the Bronx Zoo as it sheds light on the amount of work and care zoo professionals dedicate to their animals.  

Dr. Noha Abou-Madi discusses EEHV

The next day of lectures and labs was just as interesting as the first. It opened with a talk by Katy Payne about whale and elephant communication. She discussed how novel it was to discover in the 1960’s that whales actually sing and the work she has done to analyze these songs. Male whales in the same area sing very similar songs that change every breeding season, and even throughout the season. It is theorized that female whales prefer inventiveness which drives the evolution of the songs over time. Dr. James Morrissey followed with a talk comparing GI stasis and obstruction in rabbits. He taught those in attendance how to identify one versus the other, and the best way to treat these differing conditions. Dr. Lauren Powers of Carolina Veterinary Specialists, went through how to effectively perform a neurological exam on avian patients. She played videos demonstrating different tests and explained what abnormal results might indicate. Finally, Dr. Noha Abou-Madi discussed the tragic occurrence of Elephant Endotheliotropic Herpesvirus (EEHV) and how it manifested in zoos over 20 years ago. This virus can be devastating and has unfortunately killed a number of baby, mostly Asian, elephants. Dr. Abou-Madi detailed her role in researching and trying to culture EEHV. She also explained the current preemptive protocols in place that attempt to identify when an elephant calf contracts the virus, so treatment can begin before clinical signs emerge. She ended on a message of hope, because even though the virus is still unable to be cultured, there is increasing success in saving calves who contract the virus and research is ongoing to potentially develop a vaccine.

Students are shown the frames from a beekeeper’s hives

In the afternoon, I attended two labs. The first was a tour of the Cornell Bee Labs and the second was an avian orthopedics lab. The tour of the Bee Lab fit in nicely with Dr. Radcliffe’s Saturday lecture. We were able to see more in depth how beekeepers manage their hives and some of the problems that can occur. In the avian orthopedics lab, we learned how to place an intraosseus catheter, and how to set both a humeral and femoral fracture in birds.

Overall, the Special Species Symposium was an incredible opportunity to hear from top professionals in the fields of zoo, exotics, and wildlife medicine. It also provided a unique opportunity to network not just with Cornell students with similar interests, but also with students from other schools.

 

Cornell hosts the Special Species Symposium every 2 years.  For more information on the 2019 Special Species Symposium, visit the website here.

 

Opinion: The Value of a Common Cottontail

As a profession learned in the causes of animal suffering, one of the most fundamental ethical questions we veterinarians can ask ourselves is, “to what extent do we have a moral obligation to maintain the health of an animal that has no perceivable benefit to society?” To answer this question, I examine the nature of a moral obligation within the context of the veterinary profession.

The moral obligation on the part of the veterinarian is restricted in some ways by the nature of moral obligations. For example, moral obligations are always achievable which means veterinarians are not responsible for the treatment of an animal for which they lack the knowledge or resources to treat. However, if the veterinarian has the ability and a moral obligation to treat the animal, then the animal ought to be treated so long as treatment does not come into conflict with a greater moral obligation.

A veterinarian’s moral obligations towards a Bengal tiger or a Basset Hound should theoretically be the same as a veterinarian’s obligations towards an ordinary bunny. We should not consider endangered status or existence of an owner because the intrinsic value of an individual Bengal, Basset and bunny are (at this point) assumed to be the same.

If the life and health of an animal have an intrinsic value, then by virtue of their training, veterinarians have a moral obligation and responsibility for suffering that accompanies increased knowledge of the causes of suffering. Essentially, the claim that this moral obligation exists is a determination that the value of the healthy animal is greater than the cost in time, money, effort or emotion of caring for the animal. However, the value of the animal may not be enough to warrant this investment.

Animals also have extrinsic value, which is the value an animal has as a means to an end (e.g the charm of a wild animal, the production value of a cow, or the sentimental value of your family’s cat). Extrinsic values can be subjective (e.g. I feel rabbits are adorable and you feel they are garden gnawing goblins) or objective (e.g. the price of a rabbit pelt). The problem with objectivity is that it is much easier to believe in an objective value when we have science-based evidence to support our claim. Proof of an objective intrinsic value is nearly impossible beyond the metaphysical realm. This is problematic because we must prove the value exists in order to reasonably claim we have a moral obligation towards saving an animal with little to no extrinsic value. In other words, to say veterinarians ought to save the aforementioned rabbit, one relies on the premise that an individual rabbit – with no means of paying for its healthcare or value to society – is worth being saved.

Most animal lovers would make the argument that animals have a worth beyond their extrinsic value. That is, most animal lovers will claim that a veterinarian should treat a rhinoceros even if the rhinoceros does not act as a source of income for an individual or organization. However, once we strip an animal of the things that make it fun, exciting, or enjoyable to people (think sewer rat), the obligation that most of us we feel we or others have towards the animal diminishes.

A snag we hit when attempting to defend the intrinsic value of an animal is that even if you could prove its objective existence, the intrinsic value may not be enough to warrant a moral obligation on the part of the veterinarian, or anyone for that matter (e.g. say we could establish that bunnies have an intrinsic value of 10 units but the cost of treatment is worth 100 units, then the health of the bunny is not enough to justify cost of treatment).

Another issue with the veterinarian’s moral obligation to an animal is that the intrinsic value of that animal could be so insignificant that any expenditure would not be justified. This occurs when, despite the intrinsic value, the extrinsic value of an animal is greater when humans act against the animal’s well-being. Unfortunately, for many animals their quantifiable extrinsic value is greater when they are not treated (i.e. a rabbit: with no owner to cover the cost of treatment) or dead (i.e. a rhinoceros: whose remains can be sold for an exorbitant amount of money).

In order to determine if an act ought to be done, we weigh the extrinsic and intrinsic value of acting against not acting:

A Moral Obligation Exists When:

Extrinsic Value + Intrinsic value > Cost (money, time, emotion, etc.)

It occurs often that no extrinsic value exists, and the intrinsic value of the animal does not outweigh saving the animal. The clearest instance of this truth in veterinary medicine is evidenced by our control of parasites wherein we actively kill some animals (fleas, roundworms, etc.) for the benefit of another animal that has a greater extrinsic value to us (tigers, dogs, etc.):

No Moral Obligation Exists to Save the Rabbit (or flea) when:

(no extrinsic value) + Intrinsic Value of the Animal < Cost of Treatment

Despite my desire to argue otherwise, it is difficult to claim veterinarians have a moral obligation to assist animals that do not provide some benefit to mankind. This same notion is reiterated in the Veterinarian’s Oath whereby we swear to “benefit society” through the “relief of animal suffering” as opposed to relieving animal suffering for its own sake. From a conservation point of view, this post is frustrating. From a practical point of view, this means that rather than attempting to convert people to conservation by claiming a bunny should be saved by virtue of its being a being, energy should be directed to revealing the extrinsic value(s) of the bunny.  Success will require application of psychology, patience, economics, empathy, public health, philosophy, and – of course – veterinary medicine.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

María Juarez (Class of 2021) hopes to use comparative reproductive physiology to promote the preservation of North American species and improve the health of livestock. As an admirer of ethics and economics, she hopes augment community conscious conservation strategies after veterinary school.

How Space Technologies are Transforming Wildlife Conservation

The conservation of forests and wildlife is becoming increasingly important around the world due to human interference and the rising number of endangered species.

Currently, many practices involved in the monitoring, tracking and protection of wild animals involve time-consuming, resource heavy processes. New, sustainable solutions for conservation are needed to safeguard wildlife effectively in the current climate.

Projects utilising space technologies such as satellite navigation and imagery and the wireless transmission of data are finding new ways to help protect the health of wild animal populations around the world.

Here, we feature some of the initiatives driving positive change in the sector.


WAMCAM: Monitoring Endangered Species Through AI

The WAMCAM project was originally created to aid researchers studying the native leopard population in Borneo. The process of setting up and checking live animal traps and camera traps in the dense jungle was a long-winded process that didn’t allow for wide scale study.

The solution was the WAMCAM, a battery-powered camera with added AI capabilities to identify the species of animals captured by traps. When an animal triggers a trap, the camera, which is connected to remote devices via satellite, will send a signal to researchers. This allows researchers to only travel through the rainforest when needed and makes tagging and health monitoring more efficient.

Satellite navigation technology can also be used in areas with decreased visibility to locate traps across a wider area for more extensive studies on animal population.

All the information gathered is stored digitally, resulting in clearer, more reliable research data to be shared globally.


Space Applications for Wildlife

This project provides a global service for the monitoring of wildlife habitats and nature around the world. Designed for governments, NGOs, businesses and universities, the project delivers regular wildlife trend reports, wildlife management advice and crisis prevention plans.

The project uses existing data collected by satellites monitoring the earth to provide reports on habitat quality around the world. By comparing historical data from the satellites to current satellite imagery, trends and changes can be detected and plans put in place for the protection of natural habitats.

Light pollution, land ecosystems, marine ecosystems and the quality of animal habitats can all be tracked by this innovative technology. One of the main benefits of this, is that it can be used in any location.


SISMA: Monitoring Domestic and Wild Herds

The SISMA project has been created with herders and agricultural state agencies in mind. One element of this project works to protect the reindeer population in Russia. Due to weak terrestrial communications in Northern Russia, the scheme utilises satellite navigations systems, Earth Observation and satellite imagery to track herds. This technology has the aim of reducing animal loss, preventing disease and managing habitats through remote, accurate monitoring.

The project includes a collar system connected to a mobile app to inform herders of their animals’ location and check for disease via temperature monitoring and alerts.

There is also a ‘disease channel’ for veterinarians to share early warning signs for diseases. The final element is the ‘data centre’ which collects current and historical statistics for further analysis, accessible via cloud services.

Funding Conservation Projects

Finding new, sustainable ways to protect endangered species and monitor the health of wild animals around the world is crucial.

For projects such as these to become more wildly accessible, they need support and funding from governments, local authorities and commercial stakeholders.

These projects have all received essential funding from ESA Business Apps.


ABOUT THE ORGANIZATION:

The European Space Agency (ESA) is an international organisation which organizes European space programs to find out more about the Earth, our solar system and the Universe. ESA is dedicated to encouraging investment in space research and satellite-based technologies and services for the benefit of Europe and the rest of the world.

The European Space Agency: Business Applications (ESA-BA) offers zero-equity funding, access to their network and project management advice to any business looking to use space technologies for new services.

To discover more projects they’ve helped grow, head over to the ESA-BA funding page.

Investigation of Peste des Petits Ruminants Virus in Chitwan, Nepal

Sampling goats in the local village of Lothar.

Gazing up through the foliage for the source of the growing sound, we find a group of Rhesus macaques, all seemingly distressed and aware of a presence in the jungle unknown to us. Suddenly, the reason for the commotion becomes starkly apparent. A full grown leopard darts down from its post in a nearby tree, swiftly landing on the jungle floor; it flees the scene in a matter of seconds. With our judgment slightly impaired from the recent spike in adrenaline and euphoria, we approach the tree to get a closer look. This movement spooks yet another leopard who races off on the same path. Unable to find our words, my guides and I exchange hugs and high fives in response to the amazing encounter we just experienced. This was thirty minutes into a four day trek of Chitwan National Park, Nepal.

Wild Bengal tiger spotted at a watering hole in Chitwan National Park.

I considered myself inordinately lucky to have spotted such rare wildlife on my first day. While this is true, Chitwan National Park is a haven of biodiversity, and offers one of the best opportunities in the world to see magnificent macrofauna, such as wild Bengal Tigers, Leopards, and Indian Rhinoceroses to name a few. Not only do these animals reside in the park, but they are flourishing and growing in number. In fact, the park has had to acquire more land to accommodate their growing tiger population, which was recently measured at 235 individuals. The success of the park in their anti-poaching regime represents an exemplary story in conservation. It stems from a partnership between the government, local communities and NGOs. Much of the forests bordering the parks have been granted to the surrounding communities, where the members act as rangers and stewards of their land. In concert with local villages, army presence throughout the park has also proven to be immensely effective in mitigating poaching. The park service deservedly boasts that they have been poaching free of tigers and rhinos since 2011.

Despite these incredible gains, the health of wildlife in this region of southern Nepal is not entirely secure. Most notably, transmission of pathogens from domestic livestock to wildlife has proven particularly insidious. Rhinos and elephants have been confirmed dead from tuberculosis, and canine distemper virus remains a looming threat for large cats. With growing human and livestock populations in the buffer zone villages, the threat to wildlife is increasingly imminent. This is why I did my Expanding Horizons Project here.

The focus of my research was to uncover the prevalence of Peste des Petits Ruminants Virus (PPRV) in domestic goat herds of five villages bordering the national park, and from this data, try and make connections between livestock health and risk of transmission to wildlife. PPRV is a disease of immense global importance, and is responsible for $2.1 billion USD in economic losses each year. In Africa, the Middle East and Asia, small holder farmers are often left to bear the brunt of the effects, since their livelihoods are inextricably linked to the health of their livestock.

Receiving the classic Nepali award (Token of Love) after presenting my research at the local Veterinary School.

Through the invaluable aid of my Nepali partners, I was able to sample 218 domestic goats from 64 different households across five villages. For each household, we also conducted a questionnaire to gain information on husbandry, grazing patterns, and previous clinical signs. By pairing this data with the ELISA results from the goat serum, I was able to gather a much clearer picture of the local farming practices and risk factors for PPRV.  The most interesting finding from my work was the link between grazing practices and PPRV prevalence. For villages that communaly grazed, where individuals would take their animals to one or two locations in the forest or national park, PPRV rates showed 38%. However, villages that practiced isolated grazing, in which they would cut grass from the jungle and feed their goats on their property, had a prevalence of 18%. While there is inherently a level of error in my data due to imperfect sampling conditions, bias, and a relatively low sample number, this still remains a striking connection.

My time spent in Nepal was undoubtedly my most edifying experience to date. Not only did I get the opportunity to craft and execute a project in a field of veterinary medicine that I’m deeply passionate about, but I was also able to immerse myself in Nepali culture. All of my partners were local Nepali from the Chitwan region, and as a result, I gained practice in partnership and collaboration in an entirely different cultural context.

I returned from Nepal exhausted, but deeply moved, and with a clearer sense of direction and values. I am fervently committed to continue developing my skills, so that I can effectively promote wildlife health and conservation.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Born and raised in the beautiful rollings hills outside Charlottesville, Virginia, Daniel Foley (class of 2021) attended UVA for his undergraduate.  He was drawn to the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine by the university’s opportunities and education in Wildlife Health and Conservation Medicine.  He is particularly passionate about conservation efforts in the interface between livestock and wildlife, and how such issues impact human health and the management of ecosystem resources.

From Sand to Surf

Walk through a harbor on the Pacific coast and more likely than not, you will be greeted by a chorus of barks from California sea lions. Their populations were dangerously declining in the 1960s, but since the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in 1972, populations have rebounded beautifully. Bolstering these population growths are marine mammal rehabilitation centers along the Pacific coast. This past summer I had the incredible opportunity to work at one such center, the Channel Islands Marine & Wildlife Institute (CIMWI). Located in Santa Barbara, California, the goal of CIMWI is to positively impact marine conservation through rescue, rehabilitation, research, and education, improving overall ocean health as a result.

Over the course of the summer, I took part in rescues of sick or injured marine mammals, rehabilitation efforts, and ultimately the rewarding experience of releasing rehabilitated patients that had reached an ideal weight and health status to the wild. The majority of patient load were California sea lion pups. On initial intake, body weights were obtained, body dimensions measured with measuring tape, and while one person restrained, another person got a pinprick of blood from the tail vein to check blood glucose levels. Glucose levels would determine whether or not patients needed dextrose supplementation to their diet. Over time I and the rest of the CIMWI team monitored the health of, completed medical records, medicated, and attended to basic husbandry needs (such as cleaning enclosures, feedings, and providing fresh water) for patients.

Watching patients progress over time was truly rewarding as formerly emaciated pups gradually put on weight and energy levels heightened. As pups grew closer and closer to release status they were moved from more isolated enclosures designed to promote a lower stress healing environment to larger outdoor enclosures designated for housing larger groups of healthier animals. Amidst a chorus of barking, patients were lead one by one into an alternate enclosure to facilitate medicating individuals and allowing for cleaning of the formal enclosure. When patients were all gathered in a newly cleaned area, pounds of fatty herring were provided as the animals freely fed in a splashing frenzy. As we cleaned their former enclosures the ruckus dulled as the animals grew satiated and lounged in the afternoon sun.

Finally, nearing the end of my summer, all of our hard work culminated to the gratifying return of our patients to the ocean. The morning of the release, I, along with other members of the CIMWI team, met up with Jennifer Levine, CIMWI’s stranding operations and animal care manager. We loaded rehabilitated patients in transport kennels onto a boat captained by the Channel Islands Packers – a cruise organization that services the Channel Island National Park. Boarding the boat along with campers, hikers and other members of the general public destined for the national park, we answered questions about our sea lion patients and rehabilitation efforts in general. Seeing fellow travelers’ faces light up with interest and concern for these animals and hearing them cheer as the animals dove into park waters reinforced my belief that outreach is key to conservation efforts. Because these individuals had the chance to see those animals released and return to the sea, maybe they were able to get a glimpse of why our oceans are worth saving. By that same vein, it wasn’t just our patients that benefited that day – the dolphins that flanked the boat, the humpbacks breaching on the return trip and every single person on the boat that got to take in the experience – it was a win for all of us.

Acknowledgements

I would like to extend my gratitude to the Channel Islands Marine Wildlife Institute Board of Directors, including President Dr. Samuel Dover DVM and Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Ruth Dover, for allowing me to have this experience. I’d also like to thank Strandings and Animal Care Manager, Jennifer Levine, and all the dedicated volunteers and colleagues that worked alongside me for their continued support and efforts in marine rehabilitation.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Nycole Cole, Class of 2020, is interested in aquatics and conservation. originally from the west coast, she hopes to one day work in marine conservation or in government work. she enjoys running with her friends and dog, and surfing with her brother.

 

 

 

Updates from the Belize Zoo: A Case Study on a Tapir

In 2011, Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine and The Belize Zoo partnered under the guidance of Jay Hyman Professor of Zoological Medicine, George Kollias Jr, DVM DACZM. Since then, Cornell has sponsored veterinary students and faculty on over ten trips to Belize. I had the worthwhile opportunity to be on the June 2018 trip with seven other veterinary students as well as faculty, residents, and technicians from the CUHA sections of Dentistry and Oral Surgery, Anesthesia, and Zoological Medicine. As an aspiring zoo and wildlife veterinarian, this trip was a wonderful chance to receive personalized instruction and gain hands-on experience with a diverse group of Central American species. 

Upon entering the Belize Zoo, we were immediately consumed by the sights and sounds of local flora and fauna, becoming fully immersed into a jungle-like setting. All of the bio-parks’ animal residents are indigenous to the country and unfortunately, are non-releasable for a multitude of reasons. The Belize Zoo provides animals such as the kinkajou, harpy eagle, crocodile, boa constrictor, and tapir with a safe, comfortable home and sponsors them as educational ambassadors for their wild-counterparts. We were welcomed into the Belize Zoo Clinic, where we were introduced to our cases for the week. Cases included: a mass removal procedure on a Tayra (Eira barbara), physical exams and tuberculin tests on five Black Howler Monkeys (Alouatta pigra), a root-canal on a jaguar (Panthera onca), and venipuncture on toucans (Ramphastos sulfuratus).

My favorite case was a newly acquired Central American Tapir (Tapirus bairdii) requiring a physical exam and pregnancy evaluation. The Central American Tapir is the national animal of Belize and is the largest land mammal in the country; this species of “mountain cow” ranges from Southern Mexico to Northern Colombia and is endangered throughout its natural range due to hunting and deforestation. “Lourdess”, as the zoo staff named her, was a female intact, Central American Tapir estimated to be in her late adult life. She was acquired by the zoo after she was found to be thin and distressed in an area outside her natural habitat. Dr. Kollias led the well-orchestrated, multi-disciplinary examination in the animal’s off-exhibit enclosure. It was our hope that she could be examined and rehabilitated if possible.

Dr. Andrew Cushings teaches students how to conduct a ultrasound-guided pregnancy check on “Lourdess” the Tapir.

Lourdess was sedated with a combination of ketamine and detomidine intramuscularly by anesthesia resident and faculty member, Dr. Erika Militana and Dr. Jordyn Boesch, respectively. When she was sedated, students began monitoring her vital signs such as respiratory rate, heart rate, temperature, and pulse oximetry. Respiratory rates varied between 20-32 breaths per minute while her heart rate remained fairly constant at approximately 40 beats per minute, consistent with past studies regarding chemical restraint in tapirs. In order to reduce stress, the physical exam was split into teams. The head, neck, and oral cavity of Lourdess were assessed by dentistry and oral surgery resident and faculty member, Dr. Lindsey Schneider and Dr. Santiago Peralta, respectively. Meanwhile, Dr. Andrew Cushings, professor from the University of Tennessee (former Zoological Medicine resident at Cornell), conducted an ultrasound-guided pregnancy check to evaluate whether her uterus was gravid. Blood and a fecal sample were also obtained by wildlife technician Tina Hlywa. This procedure was done efficiently in less than 45 minutes, leaving Lourdess with her keeper to wake up peacefully inside the enclosure. Students continued to monitor her recovery from the gate.  

After Lourdess returned to her normal behavior, we returned to the clinic to debrief on her physical exam and diagnostics. As a previously free-ranging tapir, she was found to have moderate changes in her eyes, likely due to age, as well as significant discharge in both ears. Nose and nares were considered normal. On oral examination, there were abnormalities on her maxillary cheek teeth, so intraoral radiographs were performed. Heart and lung sounds demonstrated no abnormalities. Her limbs and feet were normal, with some scarring lesions in her axillary region. Overall, ultrasound confirmed that she was not pregnant. Body condition score was a ⅖. Initial diagnostics of the blood work demonstrated a Packed Cell Volume (PCV) of 26% and TP value of 6.6 g/dl , both of which were within normal limits compared to studies of the same species of tapir in Costa Rica. Recommendations were made to increase her free choice diet, offer supplements, and schedule a follow-up dental exam and probable cheek tooth extraction in January.  Since her exam, she has been doing well and gaining weight. In such a short amount of time, the other students and I were able to practice necessary clinical skills such as using an ultrasound probe to evaluate the heart and monitor the vitals of a sedated animal. One of my favorite skills was learning how to consult the literature on species-specific reference intervals to determine if certain values were considered normal or abnormal.   

The new Belize Zoo Vet Clinic

This opportunity would not have been possible without the the Belize Zoo staff such as Director, Sharon Matola, and General Curator, Humberto, in collaboration with Dr. George Kollias. Our group was privileged to be able to witness the unveiling of the Belize Zoo Clinic on Friday afternoon, at the end of a busy work week. The Belize Zoo Clinic has been in the works for many years and received funding from a variety of sponsors including Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine. At its opening, the zoo staff and donors honored Dr. Kollias for all of his hard work in advocating on the clinics’ behalf with a plaque next to the clinic’s double doors. Once just a hopeful idea, this clinic is now fully functional with a working pharmacy, intake area, and surgery suite. This is just one example of how the Belize Zoo works diligently to provide the best care to its animal residents.j

Acknowledgements

Thank you to all of the faculty, residents, and students that I learned from on this trip. Special thanks to Dr. Kollias and the staff of the Belize Zoo. This was a once in a lifetime opportunity!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Victoria Albano, class of 2021, is a veterinary student from Staten Island, NY. She received her Bachelor’s from Cornell University in May of 2015, with a major in Animal Science. She is excited about zoo medicine working in conjunction with conservation education. She hopes one day to work  as a zoo or wildlife veterinarian. If anyone has any questions or would like to talk more about this opportunity, please feel free to email her – vra23@cornell.edu

 

The Bioethics of Wildlife Intervention

A young springbok prancing in the air, a behavior known as “pronking.” Photo via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

A one-day-old springbok rises on his gangly legs — the shriveled umbilical cord still dangling from his ventrum — and begins to boing around his new surroundings. There is plenty to discover in the vast African bushveld, which he proceeds to do with reckless abandon.

Suddenly, a group of jackals saunters from behind an acacia tree and one of them seizes the “bokkie” by the neck. Within seconds, a game reserve employee dashes out of his safari vehicle to shoo away the jackals, gingerly picks up the injured springbok, and races to the wildlife clinic. Thankfully, no puncture wounds are detected, only bruising — the bokkie is later returned to the original site. The veterinarian waits from afar, hoping the youngster will rejoin his springbok herd.

Adult male sable antelope (Hippotragus niger). Photo via Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0.

A month later, an adult male sable is seen hobbling on three legs due to a severe hoof infection. Darting supplies and medications are loaded onto a helicopter, from which the sable is safely anesthetized. After sedation is achieved, the hoof is examined and subsequently treated with saline flush and antibiotics. A reversal drug is then injected into the thigh muscle, upon which personnel are instructed to vacate the premises expediently. Meanwhile, the veterinarian remains on-site to verify the antelope’s full recovery.

Clearly, there is never a dull day in wildlife medicine. As an aspiring wildlife veterinarian who plans to pursue conservation medicine, I have frequently encountered this bioethical issue in both my academic studies and fieldwork. The aforementioned circumstances were experiences I witnessed during my summer in Namibia, where I was conducting research and shadowing the resident veterinarian on a wildlife reserve. Although these individual scenarios involved many factors worth analyzing, the veterinarian plays a prominent role in each situation, often deferred to for coordinating the remedial actions taken and their outcomes.

The aftermath of the above scenarios: the sable gradually improved post-treatment, whereas the springbokkie was never seen again — and thus, presumed dead.

That begs the question: Was it right for the employee to painstakingly pluck the baby springbok from his herd after being attacked by jackals? Were his actions compassionate or officious? Although the infant was promptly returned, it was possible the bokkie was rejected from his herd since the human handling had now covered him in foreign scent. After failing to be adopted back into the group, he was left vulnerable to the pesky jackals once more.

As health care professionals, veterinarians are uniquely positioned to address complex ethical issues involving human, animal, and ecosystem health — a concept aptly known as “One Health.” This initiative governs the core of conservation medicine and reflects the interrelationship and transdisciplinary approach needed to ultimately ensure the wellbeing of all.

The history of human-wildlife relations has experienced some challenges and backlash, but handling these interactions involves balancing valid concerns, prioritizing values, and adopting a hybrid perspective. We regularly wrestle with whether our actions are restorative or destructive, and reflect on a track record of gratifying wins and unsavory losses to learn from. Given our substantial roles in the fate of conservation, it is imperative to debate the significance of interventional efforts and whether they can be rationalized.

While the veterinary profession certainly paints a noble picture of treating injured and sick animals, conducting mass rescues, and mitigating human-wildlife conflict, the interventional aspect entailed in all these tasks suggest, to some, the controversial idea of “playing God.” Are the measures taken regarded as dutiful obligation or self-righteous interference?

On a more abstract level, such apotheosis is inevitable for any professional practicing contemporary medicine. However, the hubris of playing God is arguably heavier for veterinarians since more stakeholders fall within their jurisdiction. As an arbiter for animals, humans, and the environment, veterinarians are constantly confronted with clinical decisions involving life and death and must calculate the associated risks and benefits for multiple constituents. Tampering with the system may result in inadvertent consequences. Conversely, just because resources are available does not necessarily mean they should be used.

Though many have applauded scientific achievements such as GMOs, assisted reproductive technologies, and instrumental surveillance, others have perceived these fields as an exercise of human dominance. The idea of wildlife intervention engenders similarly conflicting sentiments. When physicians and scientists employ these seemingly “unnatural” methods, public fear arises around their potential negative — albeit unintended — consequences. Such discomfort may reflect an underlying mistrust of science and technology in favor of a powerfully unpredictable force of nature as the ultimate source of authority. When working on a free-ranging wildlife reserve that actively promotes conservation, there are various instances in which human intervention is utilized, sparking discussion of the decision-making principles that are applied and the degree of success achieved.

On one hand, the “Circle of Life” argument is commonly cited against wildlife intervention. Such critics support a laissez-faire policy that enables Mother Nature to take her course. Any meddling on the veterinarian’s part would thereby violate this principle. Despite one’s desire to aid the patient and provide necessary care for its survival, that may interfere with the operative principle of natural selection. In retrospect, with the bokkie case, a passive approach may have been best. Simply put, there are predator species and prey species; animals must eat to survive, and we cannot disrupt this instinct.

However, the “Circle of Life” argument fails to extend to veterinary work conducted with domestic pets — namely, preventative medicine. For example, routine vaccination protocols that keep our companion animals healthy are also employed in wild animals to prevent the spread of infectious diseases. If an emerging disease threatens an epidemiological crisis — especially if the pathogen is zoonotic, i.e. can be transmitted between animals and people — this must be addressed on a population level to prevent a mass mortality event.

Generally, the guideline regarding wildlife intervention is to act when the problem presented is due to human impact. Whether it’s gunshot wounds, lead toxicity, or hit-by-car cases, we are obligated to treat accordingly. We bear a responsibility to rectify anthropogenic consequences wrought on wildlife, simply because we caused them. Moreover, other factors warrant intervention, particularly if there is monetary value attached to a certain animal or species in need of saving. In fact, this factor supported the decision to intervene with the adult sable, who was one of three males on the entire reserve. For the purposes of his health and tourism value, treating this sable was deemed permissible.

As stewards and advocates of nature, we understand the precautionary principle of playing God, its inextricable social and ethical implications, and the requisite, evidence-based risk management of any impending decisions. While there is no absolutism with these difficult situations and exceptions can occasionally be made, moral reflection, consideration of all stakeholders, and development of our own self-knowledge may help us navigate this complex terrain.

This post is written by Elvina Yau and was originally published on Mongabay on October 8, 2018.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Elvina Yau, class of 2020, is a veterinary student from Long Island, New York. She graduated from the University of Pennsylvania in 2016 with a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience and double minor in Creative Writing & Biology. Elvina aspires to split her time between practicing Companion Animal Medicine in the U.S. and contributing to conservation efforts abroad both as a clinician and freelance photojournalist.

Salamander Genetics: Conservation Research on a Molecular Level

Beck Turcios (’21) working in the Wildlife Health Lab.

How do you manage to survey a population of a small, endangered species that lives underground for most of the year? Capture-and-release, radio tracking, and other traditional methods of surveying populations might be too expensive and time-consuming. It’s an interesting conundrum that wildlife biologists and veterinarians face when trying to track animals like the Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum tigrinum).

Like most endangered species, the Eastern Tiger Salamander has felt the impacts of anthropogenic activity. Habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, and pesticide use have threatened its livelihood and decimated its populations. Despite having a pretty broad distribution throughout the United States, it is listed as an endangered species within the state of New York. Population surveys are a bit outdated, and because Eastern Tiger Salamanders are small and spend most of their lives underground, it’s difficult to get a better understanding of changes in geographic distribution. Thankfully we can address this challenge using quantitative PCR (qPCR) to detect the DNA that these animals shed into their environments. Detecting this environmental DNA (eDNA) has been used to track movements of invasive and endangered species. Now, conservationists want to use qPCR assays to detect the presence of various species from environmental samples. The Wildlife Health Lab at Cornell University’s Animal Health Diagnostic Center has been working on developing qPCR assays for many aquatic and semiaquatic species. This past summer, I joined the lab to develop a prototype assay for the Eastern Tiger Salamander.

The Eastern Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum).  Credit: Peter Paplanus

Although these salamanders spend most of their time underground, they migrate once a year to breeding ponds to find mates and lay eggs. For the brief period of time they’re in the water, they shed cells from their gastrointestinal tract and secretions. DNA within these salamander cells can be collected, extracted, and detected with qPCR.

The way qPCR works can be a little complicated. In a nutshell, the goal is to massively replicate a part of the animal’s DNA sequence, attach a fluorescent probe to it, and then have a machine measure the amount of DNA that was amplified. Successful amplification means that there was a level of fluorescence that exceeded the reaction’s threshold for significance. In order for the test to work, I had to identify a part of the Eastern Tiger Salamander’s DNA sequence that isn’t found in any other living organism on the planet. Sounds like a daunting task, but thankfully the National Center for Biotechnology and Information has developed the program BLAST and the database GenBank to make it easier to identify these unique parts of the genome. While some students interested in wildlife conservation spent their time exploring the outdoors, I spent my time shifting through the Eastern Tiger Salamander’s mitochondrial genome.

Once my points of interest were discovered, I designed primer-probe combinations and then ordered the assay that was most biologically stable and least likely to react with other species’ genomes. Finally! After months of digging through thousands of nucleotide base pairs, it was finally time to test the assay. The Wildlife Health Lab had collected samples of tissue from the Eastern Tiger Salamander and some of its closest relatives. On a leap of faith we tested all these tissues against my qPCR assay. 

Above is the amplification plot with the Eastern Tiger Salamander’s tissue samples in blue and purple. The plot shows that the qPCR assay was able to amplify the DNA of the Eastern Tiger Salamander but not the DNA of related species. The assay was therefore successful.

As you can see from the amplification plot, this test was able to successfully replicate and detect DNA from the Eastern Tiger Salamander’s genome and not replicate the DNA from closely related species. Success! Now we can use this prototype assay to start optimizing it for efficiency and sensitivity. Hopefully, my lab can start testing it against samples of water collected from areas where we think the Eastern Tiger Salamander might be hiding.

Although we got a working prototype going, there is still much more that needs to be done. My hope is that we’ll one day have a test that can help us collect field data on the geographic distribution for many amphibian species. Once the data is generated, biologists and veterinarians can begin to map out plans for the protection of our amphibian diversity along the Northeastern coast.

Joining the Wildlife Health Lab’s eDNA project was a fantastic way to be exposed to novel diagnostic techniques and new approaches to wildlife conservation. I look forward to working with them more in the future to continue exploring other unique avenues of conservation research. Hopefully the diagnostic tool that I have helped developed will elucidate the whereabouts of one of our rare salamander species and contribute to its preservation.  If its application is successful, we will be one step closer to preserving all of our local salamander biodiversity.

 


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Beck Turcios, class of 2021, is a veterinary student at Cornell University who is interested in wildlife pathology. She graduated from the University of Notre Dame in 2016 where she studied biology and philosophy. Her experiences and interests revolve around conservation education and captive wildlife management.