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Undergraduate veterinary training in wildlife health and conservation medicine in Australasia

Boardman, W., Warren, K. and Hufschmid, J. (2013) Undergraduate veterinary training in wildlife health and conservation medicine in Australasia. In: Wildlife Disease Association – Australasian Section Conference, 29 September - 4 October, Grampians National Park, Vic, Australia.


Traditionally veterinary schools in Australasia have concentrated undergraduate training on the health and medicine of domesticated animals with an increasing emphasis on small animal medicine. However, veterinary practices are now called upon to treat and examine exotic pets including reptiles, amphibians, caged birds, native mammals, and rabbits and other small exotic pets. Historically, there has been little undergraduate training in these areas and veterinarians have had to learn from the literature, attend conferences and develop their interest and confidence to tackle these types of cases.

Veterinary practices also increasingly see many injured or sick wildlife cases brought in by members of the public or by carers. Each practice in Australia treated on average 3.48 wildlife cases each week- at a time when there were 1792 practices in Australia. In 2003, across Australia each week practices were treating 6236 animals. Ten years later it is likely that this has increased considerably.

Concurrently, there has been a marked increase in interest in emerging infectious diseases linked in many instances to wildlife such as SARS, Hendra virus, Nipah virus and this has led to new terms that have arisen such as ecohealth, ecosystem health and one health. In addition there have been diseases that have affected wildlife biodiversity eg chytriodiomycosis and beak and feather disease, and some of which often spillover in to domestic animals such as tuberculosis - these areas have led to the new term – Conservation medicine.

Much has changed over the last 20 years but has undergraduate veterinary education adapted to these changes? Some veterinary schools in Australasia are starting to provide more training to support these emerging needs, ranging from individual sick and injured wildlife cases, to pet reptiles and birds, to diseases of wildlife populations which can affect biodiversity and the balance of ecosystems. What are the drivers of these changes? Should we be teaching veterinary students about the drivers of the changes in the health of ecosystems and biodiversity?

This presentation provides a snapshot of the undergraduate training that is being provided in wildlife health in veterinary schools within Australasia by the analysis of data collected from a questionnaire sent to all schools. lt discusses how we can adapt the training in the future to ensure veterinary students are conversant with the challenges that lie ahead and can seek employment in these areas.

Publication Type: Conference Item
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
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