Monday, 11 June 2012

Wellington Zoo is reaping the rewards of a Masterate Programme in Zoo Animal and Wildlife Health, run in partnership with MasseyUniversity, as for the second time a graduate has been formally appointed as a permanent Veterinarian at the Zoo. 

Since 2007, four veterinary residents have completed placements at Wellington Zoo as part of the programme, where they were able to gain valuable experience and further training working with zoo animals and native wildlife. 

“It is great to see the success of the residency programme shining through,” said Chief Executive Karen Fifield.  “The Nest Te Kōhanga trains wildlife vets from around the country, which helps to ensure that native animals can receive expert hospital care. Partnering with MasseyUniversity helps us to strengthen the skills of vets in our community, and provides expert knowledge in the care of native and exotic wildlife.”

Wellington Zoo has been fortunate to make the most of this programme, with current Veterinary Science Manager, Dr Lisa Argilla, one of the first graduates of the three year programme.

“It’s a competitive process to gain a place on this programme,” said Dr Lisa Argilla.  “But the opportunities it presents are invaluable.  As a resident, I was able to gain huge experience in fieldwork, conservation, and hands-on clinical work.  There is a strong research component, which allowed me to focus on conservation medicine. The whole programme allows you to complete as a well-rounded veterinarian, with the skills to take up opportunities around the globe.”

One of the most recent graduates, Dr Baukje Lenting, will join Dr Argilla on the Veterinary Team after being appointed this week as a permanent Veterinarian at the Zoo. Along with the two graduates, Wellington Zoo will welcome two new residents – Anna-Karina Gonzalez Argandona and Serena Finlayson over the next few months as they begin the rigorous three year programme.

“Taking part in the wildlife residency programme was an amazing experience,” said Dr Baukje Lenting.  “It is hugely valuable for trained veterinarians with an interest in wildlife to get exposure to the wide range of disciplines in this field: from clinical work to research, teaching, field work, pathology and oil spill response. I am really excited about the new role and being able to continue working with such a great team of wildlife people at the Wellington Zoo, MasseyUniversity, and around the country!”

Associate Professor Brett Gartrell, the academic leader of the residency programme believes that the partnership between Wellington Zoo and MasseyUniversity provides a unique strength in training the post graduate veterinary students.

"The Zoo rotation gives our residents real world clinical experience in zoological medicine and also immerses them in communicating their knowledge to the wider community,” said Associate Professor Gartrell.  “The partnership has enabled us to train smart and talented young veterinarians in this competitive field and keep them in New Zealand."

Karen Fifield, Wellington Zoo Chief Executive, agrees that the programme is hugely valuable to the Zoo and to New Zealand as a whole.

“It is important to the Zoo that we foster excellence in the treatment of animals in our care,” said Ms Fifield.  “This programme is the perfect platform to expand this culture beyond the Zoo.”

The Veterinary Team at the Zoo provide care not only for the Zoo animals, but for native wildlife from across the country. 

“Having The Nest Te Kōhanga as a teaching hospital means that more vets have experience treating our native wildlife and are well prepared to deal with rarer native species,” Ms Fifield explained.  “The residency programme bolsters our ongoing commitment to conservation.”

“It’s a testament to the success and hard work of the team at The Nest Te Kōhanga that we have brought another Vet on board,” said Ms Fifield.  “In 2011, we provided care for nearly 1000 native animals from 54 different species. Already in 2012, we have treated over 150 native and exotic animals.  The procedures can be viewed by our visitors, who can engage with the team by asking questions and learn about how they can help native animals in their own lives.”