Welcome to my blog where I will be sharing my thirty years of international experience as a zoo vet with the next generation of wildlife specialists, zoologists and conservationists.
Here I will be posting reviews on some of the best wildlife literature available – collecting books related to the field is one of my passions. I will be highlighting some of the burning issues that our wildlife faces today and I will share some of my personal experiences in dealing with wild animal biology and diseases.
It is my hope that this blog will be:
- a valuable resource on information about wildlife.
- an inspiration to people wanting to build a career as a zoologist.
- the start of a dialogue where knowledge and information can be shared and passed along.
I look forward to sharing my experiences and know-how and engaging in conversation with you.
Dr. Chris W. Furley, BVM&S, MRCVS, FZS, RAS.
Observational drawings of elephants
As announced last month, ‘Elephant Journal’ the first of ‘The Young Zoologist’ series written for all wildlife lovers but especially young people who might be considering a career in zoology or wildlife medicine, is now available on Amazon. If you are a young person with a driving ambition to study wildlife as a career and dream of following in the footsteps of renowned naturalists such as Dian Fossey, Jane Goodall or Professor Raman Sukumar, then I hope this book will inspire you:
- What are the different species and types of elephants and the environmental factors which make them distinct?
- Where can you find pygmy elephants and why are elephants in Namibia different from others?
- Learn to recognise the danger signals of a charging elephant and discover why male elephants in musth are especially formidable.
- Read about the largest elephant tusks ever found and why an elephant’s tusks are never the same length.
- Explore the history, lives and future of working elephants in the forests of Asia and their predicament. Find the latest information on elephant numbers in zoos and how conditions for them have improved.
- Discover how interactions with elephants can have surprising outcomes: ‘Sometimes elephants contract diseases due to the close relationship between them and the human population. Timber elephants and circus elephants in direct contact with their mahouts or keepers, for example, have contracted human tuberculosis.’
Working with these animals is a huge privilege and this book gives an insight into the dangers and rewards of studying elephants. This book is a first step to joining the ranks of some of the world’s most admired field biologists such as Iain Douglas-Hamilton or Cynthia Moss. The book is also designed as an information portal with links to the best places to see and work with elephants and complements the information and articles here on my blog. The book contains a number of original sketches of elephants by Henley College student Eleanor Hill as examples of observational drawings.
Have you downloaded the Elephant Journal? Leave your comments…or reviews here and on Amazon.
This is an interesting video from several perspectives: firstly it shows how the tip of an elephant’s trunk can be used for very delicate functions and with great precision: secondly it shows elephants in zoos are capable of amusing themselves in non-feeding/non-maternal activities that adult elephants in the wild would probably not have time for. Thirdly it shows that western zoos still don’t understand that by giving playthings to captive elephants they set an example to zoos in less developed countries that might be construed as condoning the conditioning or training of elephants to perform unnatural activities. Given that this famous zoo has done it, zoos in other parts of the world might interpret that it is ‘OK’ to train their elephants to do tricks and charge money for it. I have seen it happen.
This, unfortunately, is not the first time an elephant has stepped on a landmine. Asia is riddled with them, particularly in Burma (Myanmar) where the Burmese army is fighting an insurgency against the Karen who live along the Burma/Thailand border. Mines are also in abundance in Cambodia and Laos. Injuries like this take months to heal and the main dangers are sepsis, maggots and injuries/strain to the other leg which then has to bear the wieght of two limbs for a long time. The only good news here is that this was a tame animal that could be handled and treated: a wild elephant wouldn’t stand a chance (if ever found). All credit due to the team of vets and managers who helped this particular animal. Sadly I feel their skills will be required again in the future.
Emperor penguin count The BBC announced last week that the total number of Emperor penguins living in the Antarctic had been grossly underestimated. Satellite images at high magnification had shown that in fact it was possible to count penguins individually. The images were analysed by a team of scientists including Phil Trathan (British Antarctic Survey) and Michelle LaRue (University of Minnesota). As a result of a more accurate count, Emperor penguin numbers in the Antarctic have grown from an estimated 300,000 to as many as 595,000. This does not count birds which might have been in the sea. However, just because there are more than we originally thought, this does not mean that any less importance should be given to their conservation status. Furthermore, let us hope this technology might be used to count populations of other species in areas difficult to reach.