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News & Press: Member Spotlights

ECZM Wildlife Population Health Residency in Zagreb, Croatia

Sunday 16 April 2017   (0 Comments)
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From the beginning of my study I was interested in wild animals, their health, conservation and other relations between wild animals and humans. The last 10 years since I was employed, I have spent working with wild and exotic animals, mostly reptiles, amphibians and birds. The chance to start the residency programme was a great opportunity and a logical step for me to learn more about the wildlife, especially about the animals I haven't worked with before, and about the management and conservation of wild animals. It was also the opportunity to get more skills in the methods I didn't use in my everyday routine.  I started my programme in October 2016 and was immediately involved in the activities with a lot of different wildlife species, which made my everyday job even more interesting and fulfilled.

The benefit of the programme is that one can be involved in, and learn more about some very important fields of veterinary medicine which has not been his/her primary work assignment before. Therefore I am now more involved in pathology cases of all types of wildlife, from the gross pathology to histological procedures, thanks to our Pathology Department and its involvement in the programme. Due to the concept of the programme I am now looking forward to be involved in more veterinary procedures I am still not familiar with.

My daily tasks include clinical work and diagnostic procedures for birds, reptiles and amphibians. This includes laboratory diagnostics using standard and molecular microbiological techniques, and the treatment of diseased animals. Since our Institution is in charge for the diagnostics and treatment of diseased and injured marine turtles at the Marine Rescue Centre Pula, I have to go there from time to time to examine and treat the animals and to make decision whether the particular animal is ready to be returned to the sea. My additional work in Zagreb Zoo helps me a lot, so that the knowledge I gained working with captive animals can be translated to wild ones.

Research is important component of activities at our Institution, so that I am involved in many interesting research projects related especially to our native animal species, their health and conservation. One of interesting field tasks I would like to mention is an ultrasound health examination of the olms (Proteus anguinus). It was performed in cooperation with our colleagues and experts, Prof. Thomas B. Hildebrandt and Dr. Susanne Holtze, as part of the Olm Conservation Project in Croatia jointly realized by the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Zagreb Zoo and the Croatian Institute for Biodiversity. The examination was completed with the assistance of speleodivers in a very cold and very snowy part of Croatia. Owing to good organization and remarkable team we made a great job and one step more in conservation of these very special and endangered amphibians.

Our job also includes teaching and research activities with the students. As part of these activities we try to motivate the students and to involve them more in the wildlife health and management issues.

At the very beginning of the programme I joined the Wildlife Population Health Residents Group comprised of the colleagues from the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland. The Group is very enthusiastic and started to organize journal clubs, wildlife literature collection and workshops. This is a great way to keep you informed and up to date, and to encourage you to learn more and more.

However, 24 hour day is sometimes too short for all of the interesting and important tasks you want to accomplish. Therefore, my suggestion for the future residents would be to enrol only if they really love what they do and have a great enthusiasm in that field. 

As I already mentioned above, I just started my residency programme and already have a lot of interesting tasks to do, owing to my supervisor Associated Professor Dean Konjevic and all of the colleagues involved in the programme. They make a great effort to involve me in their everyday activities related to the wildlife, so that I am looking forward to continue the programme and acquire new skills for better management of wildlife-human relations and their improvement.


Maja Lukač, DVM, PhD 
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine University of Zagreb
Resident in Wildlife Population Health Specialty

1 -  Releasing of Loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) after rehabilitation
2 -  Ultrasound field examination of the olms (Proteus anguinus)
3 - 
Examination of young Griffon vulture (Gyps fulvus) prior to releasing


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