OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshop
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 that is why the Orangutan Conservancy created the Orangutan Conservancy (OC/OVAG) Veterinary Workshop, an annual seminar that gathers together the veterinary teams that work at the frontlines of the orangutan conservation crisis, and gave them a rare opportunity to hone skills, discuss issues and ideas, and renew friendships that could some day mean the difference between life and death for endangered apes.
The OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshop series was inaugurated in 2009, and the first meeting was held in Central Kalimantan, Borneo. The OC 2010 Veterinary Workshop was staged in Medan, Sumatra, and the OC 2011 Veterinary Workshop was held in Jogjakarta.
The 2012 event was held in Kuala Lumpur from July 9-13, 2012.
Orangutans are in severe crisis. The largest of the great apes found in Asia, their natural range is limited to the islands of Borneo and Sumatra, and their rainforest homes are disappearing quickly. More than 80 percent of the orangutans’ habitat has been destroyed over the last 20 years, and OC’s research teams believe that, as of 2012, there are no more than 40,000 orangutans thought to exist in the wild. At the current rate of decline, experts believe that orangutans may become extinct in the wild within 25 years.
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 – which number approximately 1,600 – 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.
The OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshops focus on all aspects of captive orangutan care, with a special emphasis on the detection and treatment of tuberculosis (TB). A joint program between OC and Chembio Diagnostics Systems Inc. provided large caches of PrimaTB STAT-PAK test kits to each of the facilities as part of a large-scale tuberculosis study, and each delegate was instructed in the proper use and interpretation of the results. The PrimaTB STAT-PAK testing kits are considered useful in the detection of tuberculosis in primates, a severe respiratory disease that can prove deadly.
The OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshops are sponsored by the Birmingham (U.S.) chapter of the American Association of Zoo Keepers (AAZK), which directs the proceeds of its annual Zoo Run to support the workshop. Other sponsors include the Oregon Zoo’s Future for Wildlife program, Fresno-Chaffee Zoo, Cleveland Metroparks Zoo / Cleveland Zoological Society Asian Seed Grant, Chester Zoo, and the Orangutan Conservancy, in association with the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, Chembio Diagnostics Systems Inc., Murdoch University, Abaxis (Europe) and the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program (SOCP).In addition to presentations, practical demonstrations and roundtable discussions, the delegates make site visits, such as field trips to the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Project (SOCP) facility and the Bukit Lawang orangutan feeding station in 2009.But the focus of the OC Veterinary Workshops remain the practical sessions, presentations, roundtables, and break-out groups that make the workshop so valuable. There, veterinarians who often work alone under extreme duress get a chance to pose questions and tackle hypothetical scenarios that might otherwise get overlooked. They also establish friendships and alliances that strengthen the orangutan conservation community as a whole.
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.
With your help we will again bring together the veterinarians and healthcare workers for the next important event in 2013 at Bogor, Indonesia.
Please look at this new video that shows some of the highlights from the 2011 OC/OVAG Veterinary Workshop.
2013 Update News:
For the fifth annual Orangutan Conservancy/ Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group (OC/OVAG) Workshop, OC was the recipient of a large grant from the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund. The substantial grant aided us immensely in realizing this year’s gathering of wildlife veterinarians in Bogor, Indonesia.
“It is incredibly exciting to get a grant from the SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund,” explained Dr. Raffaella Commitante, board member of OC and the coordinator of the annual workshop. “When someone has the confidence in our work to give us funding, it is a very strong validation of the important work we have been doing with our OC/OVAG workshops.”
The largest group of orangutan veterinarians yet shared their expereinces and expertise with each other. After the workshop these front-line heroes returned to their field sites across Indonesia and Malaysia to continue their work of orangutan health care.
OC thanks everyone at the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund for their generosity and belief in our ongoing mission.