Conservation and Wellbeing: OVAG 2023 Prioritizes Wildlife Rehabilitation and Mental Health

OVAG 2023 builds on a history of change by incorporating topics such as infectious disease surveillance, dentistry, anesthesia, and wildlife forensics!
Individuals from OVAG 2023 pose with the 2023 poster.





Funded Amount





Chester Zoo

The Orangutan Project

Fort Wayne Children's Zoo

Arcus Foundation

Wildlife Health Australia

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Are you passionate about wildlife conservation and eager to stay updated on the latest developments in orangutan and gibbon behavior, infectious disease surveillance, dentistry, anesthesia, and wildlife forensics? Look no further than the Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group (OVAG) Community! With another successful hybrid workshop under our belt in 2023, we’re excited to announce our partnership with Wildlife Health Australia, expanding our network throughout the Southeast Asian region. Our commitment to conservation extends beyond wildlife to include our own mental health and wellbeing, reflecting our dedication to holistic progress. As we geared up for OVAG 2023, we embarked on a new phase, incorporating participant feedback into an updated Theory of Change and forming exciting collaborations for regional disease surveillance. Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to make strides in wildlife conservation together!

Day One

Welcome to day one of the OVAG 2023 workshop, where we embarked on an enlightening journey into the intricacies of these remarkable primates. Kicking off with a panel discussion on Orangutan and Gibbon Behavior Ecology, renowned experts Dr. Susan Cheyne and Dr. Felicity Oram shared invaluable insights gleaned from decades of research and hands-on experience. From the nuances of gibbon singing behavior to the complexities of orangutan social structures, we explored the essential skills necessary for successful reintroduction into the wild. But our exploration didn’t stop there. In the following session, a diverse panel led discussions on the Rehabilitation of Orangutans and Gibbons, addressing the unique challenges and innovative approaches in preparing these apes for life in their natural habitat. Finally, we delved into the practical application of Behavior Ecology in assessing ape welfare and reintroduction readiness, uncovering the latest advancements from the Enclosure Design Tool (EDT) Project.

Day Two

As we transition into day two of the OVAG 2023 workshop, the spotlight shifts to the critical realm of Wildlife Disease Surveillance. The day commences with a new addition to our program—a ten-minute mindfulness session aimed at fostering mental clarity and focus. Following this, our attention turns to Session One: “Wildlife Disease Surveillance: Drawing the Picture from the Field.” Led by Steve Unwin, Program Manager for International One Health, participants are immersed in the intricacies of Wildlife Disease Risk Analysis (WDRA) and its profound implications for managing disease in chaotic systems. Through insightful discussions and practical workshops, attendees gain invaluable insights into the tools and processes driving effective disease surveillance and management. With a focus on systems thinking and a One Health approach, the day’s sessions underscore the importance of collaboration and innovation in safeguarding wildlife health and mitigating disease risks across species boundaries.

Day Three

Day Three of the OVAG 2023 workshop delves into the critical domains of Clinical Anesthesia and Dentistry, with a focus on enhancing veterinary care for great apes. The day begins with a comprehensive lecture on great ape anesthesia delivered by Dr. Aleksandr Semjonov, Chief Clinical Officer and senior lecturer at the Estonian University of Life Sciences. Dr. Semjonov’s presentation covers various aspects of anesthesia procedures, including anatomical considerations, risk reduction strategies, anesthesia drugs commonly used within the OVAG community, and patient management protocols. Following the lecture, participants engage in group discussions on medical scenarios to apply their newfound knowledge in practical settings. Meanwhile, in Session Two, Dr. Gerhard Putter, a highly experienced veterinary dentist, sheds light on dental management in orangutans. Dr. Putter emphasizes the significance of oral and dental health in wildlife, outlining key considerations for veterinary clinicians and demonstrating dental restoration techniques. Additionally, a case study on a complex dental problem is presented by the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme (SOCP), providing further insights into real-world challenges and solutions in great ape dentistry. As the day progresses, breakout groups convene to work on emergency and critical care scenarios, further enriching participants’ understanding of anesthesia, cardiology, and veterinary care protocols.

Day Four

Day Four of the OVAG 2023 workshop focuses on the critical field of Wildlife Forensics, inviting renowned experts to share insights into this multifaceted domain. The session begins with presentations from Dr. Klarisa Salim, Dr. Greg Simpson, and Dr. Charlene Fernandez, each offering unique perspectives on the intersection of veterinary science and legal investigation in combating wildlife crime. Dr. Klarisa provides an overview of the legal system in Indonesia and the role of veterinarians in criminal cases, emphasizing the importance of forensic examination in providing crucial evidence for prosecution. Dr. Greg delves into the practical aspects of crime scene investigation, highlighting the systematic approach required by veterinarians to document and collect forensic traces effectively. He underscores the significance of understanding the broader context of wildlife crime and its linkages to organized criminal activities. Dr. Charlene Fernandez presents a compelling case study on the use of molecular tools in forensic analysis, showcasing their efficacy in identifying the origin of illegal wildlife products and aiding law enforcement efforts. Following these enlightening sessions, Dr. Jonathan Clayton introduces the Primate Microbiome Project, underscoring the importance of microbiome research in wildlife health surveillance. The day concludes with an invitation for participants to visit the Bali Zoo for a private tour and further discussion, providing a unique opportunity for networking and knowledge exchange beyond the workshop sessions.

Day Five

Day Five of the OVAG 2023 workshop shifts its focus to the crucial theme of Mental Well-Being, recognizing the importance of nurturing resilience and compassion in the veterinary workplace. The day begins with a session led by Dr. Shefali Mehta from Open Rivers Consulting Associates, who guides participants through mindfulness exercises and discussions on self-care and community resilience. Dr. Mehta emphasizes the significance of caring for oneself and building resilience, offering insights on drawing strength from within and fostering a supportive work environment.

Following the mental well-being session, participants engage in an interactive evaluation activity in the form of a Jeopardy game. Divided into teams, attendees compete in answering questions based on workshop materials, providing a fun and engaging way to reinforce learning outcomes and assess knowledge retention.

Looking ahead to OVAG 2024, organizers express optimism and enthusiasm, reaffirming their dedication to promoting strength, health, positivity, and joy within the veterinary profession. Together, participants are encouraged to stay resilient, stay healthy, stay positive, and stay connected, as they continue their journey of learning and growth in the field of veterinary science and conservation.

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