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AWF: Wildlife welfare and conservation talk

Throughout my childhood I dragged my parents to zoos, made them watch every animal documentary, dreaming of one-day being the vet to save them all. I’m glad to say now that my attitude has matured, along with my years, however that dream has not disappeared, only developed.

One Friday evening Steve Unwin and his colleagues, Winny and Siska, came to talk to a group of students, both vet students and non-vet students alike, all fuelled with copious amounts of pizza and ready to set the world to rights! Conservation isn’t a solely veterinary field, it involves people in all sorts of roles and interests and LUVZS were thrilled with anon-veterinary turnout, with students of pharmacy, medicine and conservation in attendance the talk was truly about One Health.

Listening to tales of Steve’s career would leave anyone with career-envy, and cheesy though its sounds – I found myself inspired! Throughout his career Steve has worked, in many capacities, to ensure the welfare of captive and wild animals is paramount. He mentioned the importance of conservation and welfare and I wonder if these words should become almost synonymous. I have spared much thought to enclosure design and the buzz word ‘enrichment’ during my degree and before, however, ashamedly, I had spared much less thought to the welfare of wild animals involved in processes we conduct to try and HELP them. Often conservation, dependant on target species, can take a utilitarian approach, however as vets, surely duty lies in ensuring nothing unduly compromises welfare. Over the past few years, Steve has been involved with orang-utan conservation projects both in the UK and in Indonesia and has been heavily involved with an organisation called Ovaid. Winny and Siska, two vets who work on the Indonesian sites for rehabilitation and release talked to us about the difficulties in determining when ready to release, monitoring welfare and deciding when necessary for intervention.

Steve said at the end of his talk he hoped he had made us think and I can honestly reported - he did that. After nearly an hour of questions, we only left because the building was being closed, at 21:00, I can’t think of a better way to spend Friday night!

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