In this special investigative episode of New Breed Vets, we delve into the world of animal forensics. Steve visits the National Wildlife and Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, USA to join the high-tech scientific fight against wildlife criminals. In Australia, we probe the mysterious deaths of koalas in an isolated island colony. And in England, we join New Breed Vets investigating the cause of suspicious mouth lesions that could prove serious for a gorgeous Lowland Gorilla.
Case Study sturgeon
Case Study: Short-nosed Sturgeon Sterilisation
Location: University of Georgia, Athens USA
Veterinarian: Dr Stephen Hernandez-Divers
Dr Hernandez-Divers from the University of Georgia is working with the US Fisheries and Wildlife Service on an endangered species program with Short-nosed Sturgeon fish. The joint project involves delicate birth control surgery on captive-bred individuals. To save the species from extinction, US Fisheries are releasing captive-bred sterilised fish into wild populations to ascertain habitat viability, adult mortality rates and distribution, while maintaining the integrity of the wild population gene pool. This fish was anaesthetised by simply adding anaesthetic to its water. Once unconscious, Dr Hernandez-Divers inserted an endoscope through the outer skin of the fish. The endoscope was fitted with a small camera to allow Dr Hernandez-Divers to see precisely where he was working. The next step was to insert a small syringe and inflate the swim bladder – the organ the fish uses to control buoyancy. A second endoscope was inserted after the ovary was located. As Dr Hernandez-Divers cut the ovaries free, the incision was simultaneously cauterised to seal the wound and prevent blood loss. The whole organs were extracted in one piece through another small incision. The ovarian tubes were then tied to prevent any possibility of eggs being released. The tiny keyhole incisions were then stitched and the fish was returned to a recovery aquarium.
Patient Card - sturgeon
Case Study wolf
Case Study: Grey Wolf Autopsy
Location: National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab, Oregon USA
Veterinarian: Dr Richard Stroud
The National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Oregon is the only facility of its type – a world-class wildlife forensics centre, with the latest high-tech crime-fighting equipment and personnel. This deceased Grey Wolf was brought in and positively identified by sampling a single strand of hair through DNA analysis comparison with the lab’s comprehensive DNA data bank. Dr Richard Stroud, the Senior Medical Examiner, took x-rays of the dead wolf which clearly showed dense bullet fragments lodged in the wolf carcass. Dr Stroud then performed a necropsy – the animal version of an autopsy, carefully reconstructing the path of the bullets and taking photographic evidence. The necropsy confirmed the wolf was killed from the bullet wounds. The bullet fragments were given to Mike Scanlan, the Senior Firearms Examiner, to identify the type of bullet and weapon used through a ballistics test and comparison. The collective evidence is then admissible in prosecution proceedings.
Patient Card - wolf
Dr Kevin Fitzgerald:
In the New Breed Vets episode ‘Forensics’, Dr Kevin Fitzgerald and Dr Robert Taylor from the Alameda East Vet Clinic in Denver, USA micro-chip Prairie Rattlesnakes for future pregnancy and health tests. Dr Fitzgerald also shows Steve an ingenious solution to a Burmese Python with an eye problem.
Dr Fitzgerald is a native of Denver and a graduate of the University of Colorado in Boulder where he also received his masters and doctorate degrees in endocrinology. He received his Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Colorado State University in 1983. Dr Fitzgerald has served as President of the Denver Area Veterinary Medical Society. In 1998, Dr Fitzgerald became board-certified in canine and feline medicine by the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners (ABVP). He has written several book chapters in various veterinary texts ranging from reptile medicine and surgery to toxicology and emergency medicine.
Dr Robert Taylor:
In the New Breed Vets episode ‘Forensics’, Dr Robert Taylor from the Alameda East Vet Clinic in Denver USA uses x-rays on micro-chipped Prairie Rattlesnakes to perform pregnancy and health tests.
Dr. Taylor serves as the Chief of Staff at Alameda East Veterinary Hospital. A native of Texas, he attended Southwest Texas Junior College, Texas A&M and Colorado State University. Following graduation he served as a Captain in the Veterinary Corps of the United States Air Force. He has published three books, and authored many veterinary textbook chapters and scientific articles. He has been a teacher and innovator in general orthopedics, physical therapy and arthroscopy.
Dr Stephen J. Hernandez-Divers:
In the New Breed Vets episode ‘Forensics’, Dr Stephen Hernandez-Divers performs incredible endoscopic surgery on sturgeon fish as part of a program to save this endangered species at the University of Georgia in Athens, USA.
Stephen Hernandez-Divers graduated from the Royal Veterinary College in London with a distinction in Exotic Animal Medicine in 1994. He is a Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons Diplomate of Zoological Medicine, a recognised Specialist in Zoo & Wildlife Medicine, and a Diplomate of the American College of Zoological Medicine. He is currently an Associate Professor of Exotic Animal, Wildlife and Zoological Medicine at the University of Georgia’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and his research interests include evaluation of renal and hepatic function, cardiorespiratory function, and minimally-invasive endoscopy and endosurgery.
Dr Rhoda Ralston:
In the New Breed Vets episode ‘Forensics’, Dr Rhoda Ralston is responsible for the “CSI-type” autopsy investigation into the suspicious death of a Canada Goose at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, USA.
Dr Ralston is a chief Wildlife Veterinary Medical Examiner at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Oregon, USA – the only facility of its type anywhere in the world. Dr Ralston is a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, and has degrees in Veterinary Sciences and Zoology. Dr Ralston is particularly interested in necropsy examinations of eagles – her favourite animals. Dr Ralston is completely dedicated – her passion is death determinations of eagles, particularly related to electrocutions.
Dr Richard K. Stroud:
In the New Breed Vets episode ‘Forensics’, Dr Richard Stroud is responsible for the “CSI-type” forensic investigation into the suspicious death of a Grey Wolf at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Laboratory in Ashland USA.
A Medical Examiner at the National Fish and Wildlife Forensics Lab – the only crime lab in the world dedicated entirely to wildlife, Dr Stroud has an impressive list of credentials including a Bachelor of Science, a Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine, a Master of Science in Veterinary Pathology and Comparative Pathology Internship at San Diego Zoo. Dr Stroud’s role is to conduct pathological evaluations of evidence that support law enforcement agents’ investigations into illegal killing of protected wildlife.
Dr Jon Hanger:
In the New Breed Vets episode ‘Forensics’, Australia Zoo’s Senior Veterinarian Dr Jon Hanger investigates a rapid population decline in an island colony of koalas in southern Australia.
Dr Hanger, who has loved animals since he can remember, was born with a passion for saving wildlife. He has been working professionally with Australian wildlife for the past 15 years and is regarded as one of Australia’s foremost koala experts. In 2003 he commenced working at the Australian Wildlife Hospital at Australia Zoo with Steve Irwin. As Senior Veterinarian, Dr Hanger has treated an extremely wide and diverse number of wildlife species.
Dr Richard McCort:
In the New Breed Vets episode ‘Forensics’, Dr Richard McCort immobilises a Lowland Gorilla in order to examine a suspicious throat lesion and take a biopsy at the Howletts Wildlife Park in England.
Dr McCort studied veterinary medicine in New Zealand before working in numerous zoological facilities around the world as a volunteer. He was taken on as an assistant at Howletts Wildlife Park in the UK and has since become Veterinary Manager at the world’s premier captive gorilla breeding facility. His main area of interest is anaesthesia and developing new techniques for wildlife immobilisation.