The establishment of a School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Namibia was approved by the UNAM Senate in September 2015. Currently, the pioneer class is in their third year of study, having started in 2013 in a small Veterinary Department. The School offers two courses: a Bachelor of Veterinary Medicine degree course, and a Diploma course in Animal Health. The purpose of these programs is to provide Namibia with veterinary science graduates who are theoretically and practically competent to meet the veterinary requirements of the country.
After being armed with the basic foundation veterinary courses in the first three years including veterinary anatomy, physiology, animal welfare, virology and bacteriology, as well as public health and epidemiology, students will then advance to veterinary clinical studies, where they will be taught the art and science of medicine, surgery, anaesthesia, diagnostic imaging and the like.
The School of Veterinary Medicine has taken the very progressive step of identifying Namibia’s wildlife as one of the country’s key pillars of success and prosperity, both in terms of conservation, where the country’s highly-successful Conservancy program is world-renowned, and economically through an ever growing game industry. As a result of tourism, hunting, live sales and a game meat market, Namibia’s wildlife is sustainably contributing to poverty alleviation, and so today the country is in a position to boast larger wildlife populations of certain species than have ever been recorded previously.
In order to be prepared for the veterinary challenges of both wildlife conservation and the game industry veterinary students will undergo a full wildlife foundation course as part of their undergraduate training. “Areas covered will include underlying biological principles, wildlife infectious diseases and their control, wildlife pathology, disease surveillance and trade in game, together with a detailed look into wildlife interventions required by both conservation and the game industry. Mindful of the One Health perspective, and concentrating at the interface between wild animals, domestic animals and man, the primary goal will be to provide the Namibian veterinarian of tomorrow with the managerial skills to monitor and maintain a healthy population of wildlife in Namibia and to deal with the challenges of wildlife conservation and an ever-growing game industry.”
During the first week in July the first-ever Namibian-trained veterinary students underwent a one week field course exposing them to the wonders, excitement and challenges of the world of wildlife veterinary medicine. The week included a visit to The AfriCat Foundation where the students were shown how to anaesthetize cheetah and wild dog as well as a variety of antelope including kudu and impala. Valuable hands-on experience was gained under the care and guidance of highly-skilled veterinarians including Dr. Diethardt Rodenwoldt (AfriCat) and Dr. Adrian Tordiffe (Onderstepoort Veterinary Faculty). Directors and co–founders of AfriCat including Donna Hanssen and Tammy Hoth-Hanssen, shared their passion for the carnivore and why a wildlife-vet is of utmost importance in the survival of wildlife as well as describing some of the challenges of carnivore conservation. Students were given a glimpse of the daily life of a wildlife vet; enthusiasm ran high.
Next the students spent a day at the Cheetah Conservation Foundation’s headquarters where they learnt about a number of varied methods to attempt to identify the causes of human wildlife conflict , and then to mitigate the scenarios along sound conservation principles while always recognizing the needs of the farmer. The use of livestock guard dogs, herding and corralling, sound disease prevention protocols were but a few of the highly valuable lessons the students learnt at this world-class conservation center for the rare and endangered cheetah. Resident veterinarians and the Foundation’s CEO, Dr Laurie Marker, described some of the highly valuable research, very popular education programs and successful work the foundation has carried out over the years. The visit was capped with an introduction to their high-tech genetics laboratory.
Finally the UNAM veterinary students were afforded the opportunity to join a real-life disease surveillance program carried out by the Ministry of Environment and Tourism on the Waterberg Plateau Park. Here the only herd of buffalo south of Namibia’s cordon fence are free from certain diseases including Foot and Mouth Disease, bovine Tuberculosis, bovine Brucellosis and Corridor disease. As such the population has huge value to the nation both ecologically and economically. Every 24 months a number of buffalo are routinely tested for foot and mouth to confirm their continued freedom from the disease. The students were able to witness the capture of buffalo through both the use of a capture boma as well as darting from a helicopter. There after they joined the very skilled team from the Central Veterinary Laboratory and were able to try their hand at buffalo identification and sample collection.
The week’s exposure for the students to the world of wildlife veterinary medicine was aimed at preparing them for the next year’s wildlife course which will include both classroom and field studies. Not all students will eventually be wildlife vets, but it is essential that all vets in Namibia appreciate the value of Namibia’s wildlife to the nation, and are capable of dealing with wildlife veterinary issues as they occur in the course of their chosen profession.
All in all a week worth remembering!