Educational and Multidisciplinary Approach to the Conservation and Welfare of Captive Wildlife at the Belize Zoo

Principal Investigator: Santiago Peralta

Co-PI: George Kollias

Department of Clinical Sciences
Sponsor: John T. and Jane A. Wiederhold Foundation
Title: Educational and Multidisciplinary Approach to the Conservation and Welfare of Captive Wildlife at the Belize Zoo
Project Amount: $31,575
Project Period: January 2019 to December 2019

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): 

This renewal project corresponds to a project funded by the John T. and Jane A. Foundation in the previous 2-year cycle (2017-2018). The main objectives of the project are: 1) to broaden the educational experience of Cornell students and specialists in training by immersing them in providing veterinary care for animals in The Belize Zoo (TBZ); 2) to provide high-quality specialized medical services to the zoo animals using a multidisciplinary approach; and 3) to collect medical and scientific information relevant to the conservation and welfare of endangered and non-endangered species that are indigenous to Central America.

The Belize Zoo is a nonprofit organization and its mission includes the preservation of native fauna and the education of Belizeans and international visitors. The zoo’s collection consists of over 150 animals, including several nearly extinct, endangered, and threatened species. An active collaborative relationship between the College of Veterinary Medicine and TBZ has existed since 2011. The Belize Zoo is the basis of course VTMED 6737 offered at least once a year by one of our investigators (Dr. Kollias). To date, the working environment at TBZ has been shown to be logistically sound and safe for all Cornell personnel involved. The 2017-2018 project was completed exceeding all expectations. A total of 4 trips to TBZ took place with the participation of 31 Cornell veterinary students, 9 house-officers, and 4 faculty and 3 staff members. A total of 72 animals representing more than 20 native Belizean species received state-of-the-art medical care, including 42 surgical interventions. The project has yielded 2 scientific manuscripts (1 published, 1 in progress) and multiple presentations given by students, staff and house officers involved. Additionally, the project received community-wide attention and was featured in some of Cornell’s online and printed media. Based on its high medical, educational, experiential, and scientific impact, we feel compelled to request renewal for the following cycle. As before, the plan for 2019 will include 2 field trips to TBZ. The team traveling on each trip will include 8 Cornell veterinary students; 3 faculty members and 3 resident clinicians from the Sections of Zoological Medicine, Dentistry and Oral Surgery, and Anesthesiology; and 1 technical support staff member. The requested funds will be used to cover the cost of medical supplies; to transport medical supplies and equipment; pay for technical staff support; and to cover travel expenses generated by faculty, residents and staff. Overall, this project will continue to be of high educational and experiential value for the Cornell and TBZ individuals involved, will provide welfare and promote the conservation efforts of Belizean fauna, and will facilitate the collection of relevant scientific information.