Educational and multidisciplinary approach to the conservation and welfare of captive wildlife at the Belize Zoo.

Principal Investigator: Noha Abou-Madi

Co-PI: Santiago Peralta, 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: $31,688
Project Period: January 2020 to December 2020

DESCRIPTION (provided by applicant): 

The present renewal application corresponds to a project funded by the John T. and Jane A. Foundation in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019. 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. As in previous years, the 2018-2019 project allowed two trips to be completed (January 2019 and July 2019) and provided outstanding experience to veterinary specialists in training (residents and intern from the sections of Zoological Medicine, Dentistry and Oral Surgery, and Anesthesiology), students (16, with a maximum of eight students for each trip), five faculty members (Sections of Zoological Medicine, Dentistry and Oral Surgery, and Anesthesiology), and one technical support staff member. During these two one-week trips, over 40 animals were examined, diagnosed, and treated. Additionally, during the July trip, a forensic investigation was undertaken to research a recent mortality event. The project has yielded three scientific manuscripts (one published, one submitted, and one being drafted) and multiple presentations given by students, staff, faculty, and house officers involved. Based on its high medical, educational, experiential, and scientific impact, we feel again compelled to request renewal for the following cycle. As before, the plan for 2020 will include two field trips per year to TBZ. In addition, we have been working on a project to build capacity among the Belizean veterinarians and zoo keepers who are participating in the care of the animals at TBZ and our goal is to start implementing this project during in the 2020 trips. The team traveling on each trip will continue to include eight Cornell veterinary students; three faculty members and three resident or intern clinicians from the Sections of Zoological Medicine, Dentistry and Oral Surgery, Anesthesiology and potentially Ophthalmology this year; and one 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.