Dynamic veterinary and medical combo improves clinical skills in OVAG

By Steve Unwin

26 November 2018 |Updated: 30 November 2018

Dr. Jennifer Taylor-Cousar is a human pulmologist with a special interest in great ape respiratory diseases, which is thought to be genetically linked with Cystic Fibrosis in human. She had done several research projects with zoo orangutans with chronic respiratory diseases in the US, and is now joining OVAG. 

Dr. Nancy Lung is a former senior zoo veterinarian and the Editor-in-Chief for the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. She always has a special interest in orangutans, and has seen that respiratory diseases is a major issue in captive orangutans. 

The participation of Drs. Taylor-Cousar and Lung in OVAG and on-site at orangutan rescue centers in Borneo in 2018 had a strong  educational impact in four key areas:


1. The OVAG Annual Workshop:  Eighty participants were reached through didactic lectures on the clinical diagnosis and management of chronic respiratory disease in orangutans.  Eighty participants were reached through a group problem-solving workshop on orangutan anesthesia.  All participants engaged in lecture and group discussion on the process of scientific peer-review, the importance of sharing the vast OVAG knowledge with the broader scientific community, and how to determine what information is worthy of publication.   Participants also engaged in hands-on sessions on the use of bronchoscopy and radiologic interpretation.


2. The Nyaru Menteng Veterinary Team:  Drs. Taylor-Cousar and Lung had three excellent days of learning and collaboration with the veterinary team at Nyaru Menteng.  Six NM veterinarians participated.  Formal lectures on chronic respiratory disease were presented to the team and to the NM director (not sure of his actual title or his name!).  Excellent group discussions were had on respiratory disease diagnosis and management, clinical research, and how this information pertains to the animals at Nyaru Menteng (both pre-release and long-term captives).


3. Clinical investigation at Samboja lestari:  In partnership with the Samboja veterinary team, Drs. Taylor-Cousar and Lung continued the investigations into chronic respiratory disease of orangutans that is funded by a grant from the Wild Animal Health Fund.  This work provided excellent learning opportunities for all participants (7 veterinarians, one veterinary assistant, numerous animal technicians and several local human medical specialists).  Learning opportunities occurred in the areas of anesthesiology, radiology, pulmonary medicine, animal training, and critical care medicine.


4. One-on-one clinical training at Samboja lestari:  A recent veterinary graduate, newly hired veterinarian for Jejuk Pulang and the solo veterinarian for the Sintang Orangutan Center each came to Samboja lestari for direct clinical training.  This training included didactic lectures, hands-on wetlabs, and the opportunity to participate in high level anesthestic and diagnostic procedures on adult male orangutans (part of the respiratory disease investigations).  These one-on-one training opportunities are an excellent way to quickly and efficiently improve the clinical competency of orangutan respiratory center veterinarians.