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Vet Goes To Indonesia

“This year, I travelled to Indonesia partly for some charity work. Indonesia is a beautiful country with a manifold of endangered species. It is the world’s largest island country with more than 17,000 islands and it is the world’s 14th largest country in respect to its land mass. Indonesia has many more cats compared to dogs and this is related to the Islamic religion where dogs are considered impure.”

Bogor Agricultural University is one of the man veterinary schools on Java

“In the past, I thought working at a rescue or charity centre would be a good idea. I got in contact with the Bogor Agricultural University, one of the main veterinary schools on Java, who were delighted to welcome a neurologist for the first time. Neurology is not really taught in the vet school and many lecturers have only limited understanding. I gave a full day of neurology presentations starting with the neurological examination, brain problems and seizures, recumbent patient as well as practical classes including neurological examination, interpretations of radiology and video cases. The neurology day was well attended and there were 60 participants from the local vet school including students and 25 lecturers as well as veterinary surgeons from all over Indonesia came flying in. Everyone seemed to enjoy the day and it was wonderful to have so many grateful students.”

Vast difference between veterinary practice in the UK and that in Indonesia

“Overall, veterinary practice in Indonesia struggles at times with getting basic medications such as sedatives, or pain medications. As an example, phenobarbitone is available but testing serum levels is not possible and adjustments are made based on seizure frequency and side effects. Unsurprisingly, MRI is not available for animals and rare for people and even myelography is rarely performed. The mentality to perform euthanasia is not as popular as in Western countries and the attitude towards death of a pet is more of ‘letting nature takes its course’."

Kambas National Park on Sumatra Island - home to many endangered species

“After this fantastic experience, I went to Sumatra Island to the Way Kambas National Park (WKNP) which encompasses 13,000km² and is located in the Lampung province of Southern Sumatra. The park has a high conservation value, since it’s inhabit by many rare and endangered species such as Sumatran Tiger, Sumatran Rhino, Sumatran Elephant, White-winged Wood Duck, and many other. The sanctuary has about 400 elephants of which only around 60 were local to the facility.”

Elephants requiring veterinary care in Kambas National Park

“Most elephants are from the wild. There can be elephant human conflict in the area, where wild elephants are coming into villages and causing problems and the local elephants are also used for defending against these wild elephants. The sanctuary rescues injured elephants found in the wild.”

“One elephant had a 6 month history of a growth in the left eye, caudal ventral conjunctival mass. Symptomatic treatment with parasitic and antibiotic treatment had been done but no biopsy had been taken. Simple things like obtaining a cautery to safely perform a biopsy can be a problem in Indonesia. Checking with our Ophthalmologist Susan Manning from Pride Veterinary Centre, we suspected a squamous cell carcinoma for the mass. The local wild life veterinarian who is looking after the elephants was delighted to have gained some more insight from us. This wild life vet is heavily engaged to do the best for the elephants as well as the people in Indonesia. He is part of Indonesian-wide projects such as the One Health project to help the people understand that the animal health is not separate from the people health.”

The Borneo Orang-Utan Survival Foundation looking after a critically endangered species

“The next stop was with the Borneo Orang-Utan Survival (BOS) Foundation in Kalimantan, Borneo. Wild orangutan populations and their habitat have continued to decline in size and are now classified as critically endangered species. The BOS Foundation is currently taking care of almost 750 orangutans with the support of 400 highly devoted staff, as well as experts in primatology, biodiversity, ecology, forest rehabilitation, agroforestry, community empowerment, education, and orangutan healthcare.”

“Overall, Indonesia is an amazing country with many rare animal species and thus I am truly grateful for having had a fantastic experience and met many wonderful people and animals.”

Annette Wessmann DrMedVet DipECVN PGCertAcPrac FHEA MRCVS European Specialist in Veterinary Neurology
Annette graduated in Hanover, Germany in 2000 followed by completion in 2002 of a doctoral thesis in “Hereditary Ataxia in the Jack Russell Terrier”.  Annette moved to the UK shortly afterwards and undertook a residency at the Royal Veterinary College in veterinary neurology, and has since been awarded the European Diploma in Veterinary Neurology.