Love of exotic wildlife led to my life as a vet

After several years of taking in as much theoretical information as possible, every veterinary science students gets to the point of finally being allowed to do some practical stuff.

This comes in the form of mandatory work placements, but where we go is entirely our decision.

Since I have been particularly interested in working with exotic animals and wildlife, and wanted to return to my favourite destination – Australia, I applied for a placement at the Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital in Queensland. In case you haven’t heard of it, The Australia Zoo was called into existence by Steve Irwin, the famous “Crocodile Hunter”, who died in 2006 after being stung in the chest by a sting ray. The zoo is an incredible place with a lot of thought put into different themed departments, and amazing shows. A place which entertains andeducates people about our natural world.

The Australia Zoo and Wildlife Hospital (AZWH) is built on the grounds adjacent to the Australia Zoo. Its aim is to conserve Australia’s native animals and again to educate. Under their care are mainly koalas, which have been hit by a car, burnt in a fire, attacked by a dog or suffering from eye and/or bladder infections. The two latter diseases are very common in koalas with 70% of the population suffering from Chlamydia infection. This infection, can make females infertile, can impair their vision by chronic eye infections, dehydrate them by chronic cystitis, and finally make them so weak, they are unable to climb a tree, and therefore unable to feed.

If you see a koala sitting on the ground, it’s likely to have a problem because although they have strong limbs with long claws, they are not the best fighters, and quite vulnerable to predators.

Besides koalas, AZWH has several different sized pools for turtles, many of which suffer from injuries caused by motor boat propellers or fishing nets, or floating syndrome.

This syndrome can be caused by a parasitic infestation, which will lead to gas building up in the turtle’s body and keeps it from diving. A turtle that isn’t able to dive cannot feed.

One of my favourite patients was Gemma, an adult Green Sea Turtle, weighing more than 80kg. I had been lucky to assist when she had to have an operation. It was a great success and after staying at the hospital for about half a year, Gemma was able to be released into the wild again.

Well, These experiences are just some of the reasons why I’m now a vet.