Liverpool Vet School Exotics Conference

This year at Liverpool vet school, LUVZS (the resident society for all things wildlife) had it’s first (and hopefully not last!) ‘LUVZS Day’ especially for its members. The day involved a variety of talks and activities (and food of course!) to provide students the opportunity to learn about things not necessarily covered on the general veterinary curriculum. We were kindly sponsored by Burns and Dechra whose kind donations helped us run this event and ensure all the money possible went to charity.

We had some fantastic talks, namely John Lewis one of the founding members of Wildlife vets international, a charity which supports veterinary work around the world and have an active role in conservation. He spoke about his work in Russia researching into the effects of a reintroduction program for Amur leopards and also discussed with us the problems tigers around the world are facing due to the canine Distemper virus. It was safe to say we were all a little star struck by John and also incredibly envious of his career ( though I’m not sure how fun being in a tent in the middle of the Russian winter would be?)!


This was followed by some entertaining anecdotes and some particularly incriminating photos from Ian Ashpole, ex-Liverpool student, Chester zoo vet and exotics enthusiast. Ian discussed his own route through vet school to where he is now working at Chester zoo (which involved a serious amount of very enviable travelling!) and took us through some of the options available to those of us wanting to pursue a career in exotics. He made us all feel much better about our rapidly approaching futures and first jobs and finished with some interesting cases he’d encountered of his own. Continuing the Liverpool theme, the university’s own beloved Pathology lecturer, Dr. Ranieri Verin, walked us through how to carry out a post mortem on aquatic mammals such as Cetaceans and seals. The most notable thing was not to stick your face in the blow hole and stand back when making your incision as the build up of gases incide a Cetacean carcass can be …..expolsive (seriously, go and youtube whales exploding and you’ll see what I mean!). On a more serious note, D. Ranieri also discussed common pathologies found in Marine mammals and gave us some useful advice on other routes you could take as a vet in the exotic field. I wish all pathology classes could capture my interest as much as this one did!

Liverpool Vet School Exotics Conference Liverpool Vet School Exotics Conference

Other speakers included Rachel Hevesi, Director of Wild Futures who spoke about the issues facing captive primates in the UK, the legalities behind keeping exotic primates and ways we, as future vets could help tackle this problem. Wild Futures who run a centre for rescued and rehabilitated primates are open to the public and are keen to educate and be involved in research involving captive primates, in particular those involving welfare and disease. Duncan McNair, CEO of Save the Asian Elephants then took us down a more international route to discuss the issues of working captive Asian elephants and the problem with tourist support for companies abroad who need to improve their welfare. These speakers really made us all consider the importance of eco-tourism and that being a responsible pet owner does not just extend to cats and dogs but any animal you chose to keep. It is amazing how important education is in animal welfare and that we, as the next generation of vets can make a difference to animals lives through working with owners to improve a situation both on an individual and international scale.

Final speaker was Dr David Roberts from the University of Ken who talked to us about how the illegal wildlife traders are using the internet and platforms such as facebook to transport and sell illegal products across the world. Trade in illegally captured wildlife or products of animal origin such as ivory and rhino horn is now the fourth largest source of crime globally and quickly catching up with the arms trade. Dr Roberts and his team are involved with trying to find ways to use the internet to catch wildlife traders and to limit their ability to sell online, a noble line of work I think we can all agree!

In the afternoon the students had the privilege of meeting Oreo, the raccoon model from Guardians of the Galaxy who was recently back from his appearance on the red carpet. LUVZS members had the opportunity to get ‘up close and personal’ with Oreo along with many other weird and wonderful creatures including a giant pouched rat, tenrecs, a binturong and many more bizarre furries! This was a fantastic opportunity to meet, learn about and handle animals which are becoming increasingly popular as pets in the UK which we may be seeing much more of when we all start our careers!

Liverpool Vet School Exotics Conference

The day was a flying success and while the LUVZS team were left with mops and buckets to clean up after the animals, everyone went home happily sporting their LUVZS goodies (and a bit of extra animal hair!) full of compliments about the day. LUVZS day was also a tremendous success for raising money for our chosen charity this year, Wildlife Vets International and our charity rep, Ashley had worked incredibly hard pooling some amazing prizes for the raffle and silent auction to bring our grand total up to £2000 when kindly matched by Santander.

I can safely say that I learnt an amazing amount from the inspiring an enthusiastic people who helped make the day possible and were kind enough to share some of their knowledge and experience with us all. As many of us are now third year it is sadly our final stretch as part of the LUVZS team before moving out to Leahurst to start the next chapter in our veterinary studies. LUVZS Day was an amazing send-off for the standing committee and a great way to show next year’s shiny new team what LUVZS could accomplish!

Liverpool Vet School Exotics Conference

All photos copyright to our wonderful secretary and photographer for the day Beth Dixon

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