Chelonian Vet Workshop Hosted in India

by Shailendra Singh 

DSC01562The Madras Crocodile Bank Trust (MCBT) and TSA recently jointly sponsored and organized a veterinary workshop to train veterinarians from the five Turtle Priority Areas (TPAs) of India. Twenty wildlife vets, associated with reptile care and rescue, participated in the training. The workshop was held from June 26-30, 2011 at the MCBT facility and focused primarily on the basics of chelonian husbandry and health care in captivity, as well as the handling and rehabilitation of turtle confiscations. The training program was split into two sessions. Veterinarians who manage chelonians for the forestry departments and NGOs comprised the bulk of the first session. The second session consisted primarily of private practice veterinarians, particularly those associated with wildlife rescue within India.

The workshop was held at MCBT, which houses 17 species of Indian chelonians and provided ample opportunity for hands-on experience to the participants. Dr. Shannon Ferrell (Fort Worth Zoo) was the main instructor to the workshop, whereas Dr. Gowri Mallapur, resident vet of the MCBT, was the co-instructor and co-organizer. The First Session began with an inaugural address by Mr. Colin Stevenson, Director of Madras Crocodile Bank Trust, who emphasised the need for active collaboration in furthering chelonian conservation and securing the future of turtles across the globe.

DSC01564The workshop involved a combination of classroom sessions supplemented with hands-on practical exercises such as physical exam, phlebotomy, assist feeding techniques, anesthesia, and gross necropsy. An additional separate session was organized on the identification and handling of turtles by Nik Whitaker (Curator, MCBT). The participants were assisted in this capacity building program through the essential support provided by Dr.Gowri Mallapur and Mr.Colin Stevenson.   

At the end of the sessions, participants felt the physical training significantly improved their confidence and comfort level in the application of more aggressive diagnostic and supportive care techniques for chelonians. Certificates of participation were distributed, and the veterinarians were keen to continue collaborating and communicating for the advancement of turtle conservation throughout the country under the leadership of the TSA/MCBT’s India Turtle Conservation Program. The major goal of this workshop was to train veterinarians in advanced chelonian health management techniques that can assist with both the captive and field components of TSA’s India conservation program. It is critical that we are able to mobilize a network of trained veterinarians to assist the government when confiscated chelonians are in need of triage, treatment, and rehabilitation. To further the agenda, TSA is talking with a few NGOs and forestry departments to develop a mobile “Rapid Response Veterinary Unit” to immediately assist turtle confiscations throughout country.