Collectively, the veterinarians and healthcare staff at rehabilitation centers in Borneo and Sumatra care for the largest captive population of orangutans in the world. Yet they face nearly impossible odds, and often find themselves short of medicine, equipment, money, space, support staff and time.
But those same dedicated men and women do not lack for skill or commitment. And this is why the Orangutan Conservancy created the OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshop – an annual seminar that gathers together the veterinary teams that work on front lines of the orangutan conservation crisis. It is a rare and much-needed opportunity for them to join together to hone skills, share the latest orangutan data, discuss issues and ideas, and to meet colleagues that could some day mean the difference between life and death for endangered apes.
The focus of the OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshops remain the practical sessions, presentations, round tables, and break-out groups that make the experience so valuable. At the workshops, OVAG veterinarians who often work alone under extreme duress discover a place to pose questions and tackle hypothetical scenarios that might otherwise get overlooked. They also establish long-lasting friendships and alliances that strengthen the orangutan conservation community as a whole.
The primary threats to orangutans are illegal logging and habitat destruction, human encroachment, the conversion of rainforests to oil palm plantations, and the pet trade. As a result of such intense pressures, an extremely large number of orphaned orangutans exist in rehabilitation centers across Borneo and Sumatra. These orangutans arrive bearing a host of physical and emotional wounds, and require intense veterinary care to recover.
The orangutans that are judged fit to return to the wild are reintroduced through a long, complex process, but the overwhelming majority continue to reside in the rehabilitation centers.
And the dedicated vets and healthcare workers that care for these orangutans are the front line heroes that we bring to our workshop each year.
The Workshops have recently been co-sponsored by the Chester Zoo/ NEZS, United Kingdom ABAXIS, Germany, the International Primate Society and the Fort Wayne Children’s Zoo. This ongoing support combined with individual donations made our supporters is the reason we are able to continue the OC/OVAG workshops.
At the OC 2009 Veterinary Workshop, the delegates took the bold step of forming the Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group (OVAG), which quickly became a forum for issues such as contraception, reintroduction, diseases, euthanasia, laboratory politics and other hot-button topics. In this way, the OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshops have helped build a community of veterinary healthcare experts that stands strongest when it stands together.