Veterinary students were given intensive, hands-on experience and an inside look at a One Health approach to conservation during a new immersive course in Africa, June 11-26.
The pilot course, called Wildlife Medicine in Africa, took 12 veterinary students to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe this summer. Due to the pandemic, the course has been postponed since 2020.
“The two-credit course was designed to meet the growing interest in wildlife health and conservation among our veterinary students,” said Dr. Danielle Frey, director of Veterinary Student International and Outreach Experiences in the College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Frey led the course with Dr. Barb Wolfe, associate professor of wildlife health, and a guest instructor, wildlife veterinarian Dr. MaryWright. The program was organized by the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust (VFWT), based in Victoria Falls National Park.
Upon arrival, students dived into a two-day Diseases and Poisons course, where they learned about common diseases in the region, conflicts between wildlife and humans in Africa, methods of remote capture and anesthesia, and how to conduct post-mortem forensics. . They took the course with a day in a field lab, where they learned techniques for sample preparation and processing. Field days with wildlife biologist Roger Parry gave the students experience with telemetry to track animals for research and conservation; remote recording for placing GPS collars; as well as the treatment of man-made injuries such as snares.
In addition to experience with African wildlife, the holistic course provided students with a unique perspective on One Health at the interface between nature and humans, Frey said. One Health refers to a transdisciplinary approach to promoting human, animal and environmental health. The students joined VFWT veterinarians and staff in community-based efforts to improve the health and protection of Zimbabwe’s livestock and small animals. These efforts, in turn, prevent the transmission of disease to wildlife and humans.
The VFWT team, which included wildlife veterinarians, conservation biologists, lab technicians and community contacts, provided a comprehensive overview of Africa’s complicated wildlife-human interface issues, as well as innovative solutions in progress. The CSU team of instructors, with experience in naturopathy, research, and international community engagement and practice, provided additional expertise and shared experiences. The success of the course paved the way for a long-term collaboration. For more information, please contact Dr. Danielle Frey.
Testimonials from students, teachers and partners
“Natural medicine and conflict issues are complex and vary widely between regions and countries. Because the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust takes a holistic, community-focused approach to these issues, this course provided students with unique, broad, experiential classes in wildlife forensics, remote capture, population monitoring, laboratory analysis, and community engagement in the nature-man couple. No other course can offer such a comprehensive experience. Add to that a committed and supportive teaching team, safe and comfortable housing, and a beautiful environment – what a fantastic way to teach CSU students what wildlife health and conflict really mean!”
-Dr. Barb Wolfe, DVM, Ph.D., DACZM
“CSU’s nature course in Victoria Falls gave me the opportunity to learn about and interact with wildlife in a hands-on way. I’ve always thought I’d be interested in wildlife, but never had the exposure. This course allowed me to experience naturopathy in the field, which gives me a better understanding of what kind of medicine I would like to pursue in the future.”
-Savannah Kennedy, DVM Class of 2024
“This experience included so many different aspects that are not fully covered in the traditional curriculum. Learning about the animals and medicines is just the surface. One of the most eye-catching moments was a dive into a different culture and insight into the people and community that are the backbone of true wildlife conservation. This experience is life-changing with countless unforgettable memories. I know now more than ever that this is the right path for me.”
-Tiera McAdam, DVM Class of 2024
“This course has helped me learn the wide variety of skills that come with a conservation career as a veterinarian. Working with the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust has been an incredible opportunity to better understand the interdisciplinary challenges they are trying to ameliorate in their region. Working with VFWT emphasized that conservation should encompass a variety of approaches, including research, anti-poaching theory, lab work and post-mortem research, human-nature conflict mitigation, and the many issues at the interface between pets and wildlife. For those interested in natural health and One Health as a profession, I can’t think of a better way to understand what you really want from your calling.”
-Jon Maxwell, DVM Class of 2023
“The veterinary graduate training at CSU is important to the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust as a way to inspire people looking to careers in veterinary medicine, to think about wildlife and conservation and, of course, to showcase how people, livestock, wildlife and ecosystems are connected. It is critical for veterinarians to keep this interconnectedness in mind throughout their careers.
“The world needs more wildlife veterinarians and people who understand One Health, especially in developing countries. We hope that this program will not only impart knowledge, but also a greater interest in global veterinary medicine. Conservation is not the model of one species, but is intertwined with all of us, and wildlife veterinarians play a key role in protecting wildlife and improving people’s livelihoods and health. Never has this been more evident than now after the global coronavirus pandemic.”
-Jessica Dawson, CEO of the Victoria Falls Wildlife Trust