Building Local Capacity in Conservation Medicine.

Although most veterinarians graduating from the Departement d’Enseignement des Sciences et Médecine Vétérinaires (DESMV), veterinary school of Antananarivo, Madagascar will not be directly involved in wildlife medicine, they can still play a role in the conservation of Madagascar’s unique fauna. With this in mind, the DESMV in collaboration with the Madagascar Fauna and Flora Group (MFG) organized the 2015 symposium on conservation medicine and wildlife health at the Ivoloina Park between Sept 21st and 26th 2015. The fundamental objectives of the workshop were to introduce finishing veterinary students to the basic concepts of conservation medicine, provide them with an overview of Madagascar’s faunal biodiversity as well as  the pathogens and diseases of greatest concern to Madagascar’s endemic species and introduce students to techniques used in the field to capture wildlife, collect biological samples, ensure the animal’s safety and welfare. We also wanted future veterinarians to recognize the role they can play in conservation medicine and above all leave the workshop more inspired, enthused and motivated to contribute to conserving Madagascar’s wildlife. The symposium was attended by 16 veterinary students from the DESMV, a student from the VetAgroSup Campus Veterinaire (French veterinary School of Lyon) and veterinary professionals from the DESMV, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, Ambatovy, the Tsimbazaza Zoo, and the University of Missouri Saint Louis.

Speakers covered various topics on biodiversity conservation and health of Malagasy wildlife including the natural history of Madagascar, lemurs’ diseases in the wild and in captivity, and the legislative aspects of keeping endemic animals in captivity. Dr Haja talked about wildlife anesthesia and immobilization techniques he uses at his site while Dr Tsanta, an alumnus of the 2009 symposium and now a wildlife veterinarian at the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust presented her work as a first responder for the rehabilitation of seized tortoises and the health and care of chelonians in captivity. Through various hands on activities, students also had the opportunity to practice their skills at examining a lemur and a tortoise, learn the basics of telemetry and other methods used commonly in the field of wildlife research.

Finally, students were also given the chance to present and receive feedback on their thesis research project. Subjects varied from the prevention of diseases in honey bees using natural products to the parasites of crocodiles (Crocodilus niloticus) in captivity. Mr Eric from the Ministry of Environment offered several projects and proposed collaborations to a couple of students regarding the health of reptiles and amphibians, a subject that has become a priority for the Ministry.

We would like to thank the Saint Louis Zoo through the Wildcare Institute for funding this project and I would like to express my most sincere gratitude to Drs Tsanta Rakotonanahary, Veronika Smart, Haja Rakotondrainibe and Mr Eric Robsomanitrandrasana for their conferences and the guidance that they have provided to the students throughout the symposium, the staff of the MFG and especially Ingrid Porton, Nicole Vally, Christian Rambeloson, Flavien Fasy and Maya Moore for their help and support organizing this workshop, the keepers of the Ivoloina Zoo for their patience and cooperation during animal manipulations, and ASISTEN-travel for arranging the transportation of attendees.

Misaotra and hope to see you next year for the 2016 joint DESMV-MFG conservation medicine symposium.

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