For many people, a visit to the zoo is a fun day to visit a myriad of exotic animals, learn interesting facts about various species, and perhaps stop at the gift shop on the way out. But behind the scenes, there’s a largely invisible team of experts protecting the health and well-being of every creature and doing important wildlife conservation work.
Now leading that team is Dr. Doug Whiteside, DVM, board-certified zoological medicine specialist and passionate animal welfare advocate.
“One of the most exciting things about this new role is being able to make more meaningful contributions to animal welfare, species conservation and research that bridges the knowledge gap between wildlife under the keeping humans and wild animals free,” says Côté Blanc. He is also an associate professor at University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, where he educates future zoo veterinarians and conservation medicine.
So what’s it like to balance the two jobs?
“It’s very busy,” Whiteside laughs. “It keeps me on my toes, but I really appreciate it.”
Alexandra Seidman, University of Calgary
Care for – and seek out – all creatures, large and small
During his nearly 21-year career at the zoo (which was renamed the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo to better reflect his critical wildlife conservation work), Whiteside has provided care for everything from fish to giant pandas, frogs to giraffes and hippos, and a soon-to-be-mum gorilla named Dossi. In addition to his clinical work, he is extensively involved in collaborative research projects focused on advancing species conservation and animal welfare.
“Increasingly, the goal of the zoo is to run a world-class zoological facility, where people can connect with the animals and nature, but also to really improve the level of conservation work that we do at the beyond the walls and the science behind this conservation work,” says Whiteside. “And I’ve been able to involve UCVM students, both undergraduate and graduate students, in these research projects, which is wonderful.”
Whiteside is also excited about the development of UCVM’s new Wildlife Health Fund. This will allow for the future growth of collaborative wildlife health research at the university.
Train and mentor the next generation of veterinarians
Courtesy of Doug Whiteside
In his role as an associate professor, Whiteside infuses zoological medicine into the clinical skills classes and labs in the first three years of the veterinary program and coordinates the zoological medicine internship at UCVM-Calgary Zoo.
He is also the lead instructor for fourth-year clinical internship students at the zoo – an incredible experiential learning opportunity where students spend four to six weeks experiencing the life of a zoo veterinarian.
“They are immersed in zoological medicine and surgery, conservation programs and pathology. And we get them involved in as much hands-on work as possible,” says Whiteside. “Whenever we have animals anesthetized, they are there to help monitor anesthesia, do physical exams, draw blood, and learn how to perform different procedures.”
The zoo and the University of Calgary have had a long-standing partnership, right from the start when UCVM was just a concept.
“It was a natural synergistic progression. When I came to veterinary school full-time, the zoo remained my clinical home. Now, in my new role, I hope to have even more impact that will benefit both organisations. »