Wildlife Vet Work
Through My Eyes
The nitty and gritty of being a wildlife veterinarian.
What is Wildlife Vet Work? Well, it is about catching wild animals safely and with as little stress as possible. We can track them after putting tracking devices on, we can translocate rhino to strange places, we can deal with snares and treat wounds, we can use applied field research to better understand diseases and we can use Health, especially using a One Health approach, as a means of improving conservation outcomes. The nitty and gritty of being a wildlife veterinarian as depicted in Through My Eyes is reflected in fieldwork in big landscapes, intact ecosystems, true wildernesses and with free ranging, wild wildlife and, ultimately rural people. The author’s focus and philosophy has always been to adopt a big vision approach, holistic in nature and always with a finger on the pulse and eyes wide open.
Wildlife Veterinary work is multi-faceted and is not just a romantic view of a vet, dart gun, drugs and let us go! Through My Eyes emphasises the role of a veterinarian working in a holistic environment, working with single species is fine but more emphasis must be placed on looking at populations within big landscapes, considering the entire health of the ecosystem. People and their health in the broadest sense, matters when it comes to applying veterinary skills in a wild environment. Wildlife Vet work should be an “out-of-the-box” endeavour.
The veterinary profession
Two Veterinary Schools played a pivotal role in my career. The Royal Veterinary College, University of London, the second oldest school in the world, where I earned my B Vet Med degree (1976) – this degree sowed the seeds for my future career. My younger brother, Richard Kock, also a vet is a Professor in Wildlife Health and Emerging Diseases at the RVC. The School of Veterinary Medicine at UC Davis, California, USA (1980-1987) provided the post graduate training that ultimately launched my wildlife career. UC Davis provided me with the tools to work in the wildlife and conservation field. I was awarded Alumni of the Year 2010 by UC Davis in recognition of my contributions to Wildlife Health, Conservation and Management in both North America and Africa – this was a real honour for me. Both these schools vie as the top rated Veterinary School in the world, the RVC holds top spot currently, with UC Davis in second spot. Without both these academic institutions Through My Eyes would not have been written.
The Faculty of Veterinary Science at Onderstepoort, University of Pretoria in South Africa, also contributed to my later career, but the relationship was much more complex. Support over the years from the Wildlife Disease Association (WDA) and the many colleagues who were members, has been invaluable exposing the author to new ideas, continuous professional development, applied field research, publications and camaraderie. The veterinary profession has seen a global shift in the demographic make-up of the profession with a significant increase in woman making up the classes and graduating over the last few decades. In many instances, with the first year intake of students at Veterinary Schools a large percentage might emphasise their desire to work in the conservation field but by the time graduation arrives the reality sets in that opportunities are limited, post-graduation.
How does one give career advice to veterinary students who want to become wildlife veterinarians, to work in the conservation field, or indeed, even with captive wildlife? Through My Eyes is a pictorial “how-to-do-it” in developing a wildlife veterinary career. One of the key ingredients to wildlife veterinary work is having passion: for the natural world, for hard work, for long hours and a desire to make a difference. Extra ingredients include: going the extra mile in terms of qualifications, some volunteering time and developing a broad vision of what really matters to people who live in close proximity to wildlife and wild areas. Health is a strong part of the conservation toolbox, healthy people (and healthy animals) are in a better position to make decisions about their lives and their relationship with the natural world around them.