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News & Press: Member Spotlights

The Norwegian Wildlife Hospital

Sunday 19 June 2016   (0 Comments)
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I am a 37-year-old, Israeli-born veterinarian who opened Norway’s first wildlife hospital in 2013. We rescue and treat a broad range of wildlife, many of them birds of prey, through a network of volunteers.

I have always been fascinated by wildlife. As a child, my house was a menagerie of wild animals that needed care. So when I was done with my military service, and had spent some time travelling, it seemed natural to pursue a career in veterinary medicine.

I graduated from the University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences in Brno, Czech Republic in August 2011.

My wife, also a vet, is from Norway. In 2011, we moved to her hometown, Hauge i Dalane, near the southern tip of Norway. It is part of a small township of about 3,300 people, about a 1.5-hour drive south of the port of Stavanger.

In Hauge, I opened a horse and small animal clinic. However, I quickly realized that there was also a need for a facility to treat wildlife, so I founded the Norwegian Wildlife Hospital in 2013, and have so far treated about 150 wild animals and birds.

 

Equipment and funding

There is no regular public funding for such a clinic. The hospital, which a nonprofit organization, has received small grants from foundations, limited donations from supporters, and a modest, per animal fee from the Norwegian Food Safety Authority, which is also responsible for wildlife health. That fee is not enough to cover the cost of treatment, but is a good start. Other veterinary clinics support the effort by donating surplus equipment, including an analog x-ray machine.

The hospital is currently equipped with that x-ray machine, an examination room, lab (hematology and biochemistry of mammals and avian species), and a surgery room with a sevoflurane anesthesia machine.

We treat wildlife at the clinic and at a separate property in another part of the village. We can nurse and rehabilitate 15-20 animals at a time in indoor and outdoor cages.

 

Patient overview

Most of our patients are birds, including waders, ducks and swans, corvids, sea birds, passerines and birds of prey.

We have full avian orthopedics set for birds of prey and other types. I’m happy to report that some of our avian patients are flying again following treatment of wing fractures. I took an orthopedics course at the first congress for exotic and wild animals in Germany in 2013 that was taught by Dr. Patrick Redig. He is a professor at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and founded the respected Raptor Center there.

Our tiny hospital has also treated roe deers, hedgehogs, weasels, squirrels and minks. We hope to eventually build the capacity to treat badgers, foxes, lynx and possibly even wolves.

 

Injuries and ailments

We treat a variety of ailments and injuries. Common ones include intoxications, especially heavy metals in swans and eagles; eye infections and other infections; fractures and head trauma, often from collisions; and orphaned or ailing young animals. It is interesting to note that most of the sea birds we have rescued on land have turned out to have viral diseases.

 

Transport

Norway is nearly as long as all of Continental Europe, making transportation of wildlife a challenge. We have volunteers willing to form transport relays to bring wildlife to the hospital. The SAS airline also transports wildlife up to lynx/eagle in size to the nearest airport for a fee. Due to limited resources, we can only pay to transport special animals.

 

Challenges

The effort has captured the imagination of many Norwegians. It has been featured in local, regional and national news media, including as a segment on one of Norway’s most popular TV programs, ‘Norge Rundt’ (Around Norway) by the national public broadcaster NRK.

However, we have a long way to go. The hospital is still underfunded, meaning I have to make up the difference out of my own pocket each year. We have 2,500 followers on Facebook, but few make donations. With some exceptions, such as a local car dealership, businesses or government agencies have not made significant contributions.

Traditionally, the Norwegian approach to sick or injured wildlife has been euthanasia on the spot. We spread the word that many of these animals can be saved instead. We have reached out to police and wildlife agencies in our region asking them to alert us to wildlife in need. I am pleased to say that awareness in steadily increasing among such officials.

Another challenge is that many of our followers think we are a public institution that is obligated to treat all wildlife, and simply don’t understand that our resources and financing are so limited that we can only transport and treat relatively rare animals. Others have the idea that the hospital is fully funded, for example, by the government, which sadly is not the case.

 

The Future

We need to have the clinic and the rehabilitation center in the same place, instead of separate locations as now, if the hospital is to be viable and sustainable. We will eventually need a larger staff, more space, more and larger cages and containment areas and more modern and extensive equipment.

We need to get regular funding in place, since I cannot afford to donate my time and money to the project indefinitely. We need a broader network of volunteers, both here in Hauge and throughout the country.

Although progress is slow, the fact that there is progress is encouraging. I am optimistic and excited about the future.

I would be delighted to hear from my fellow wildlife vets with questions, suggestions or helpful contacts.

 

Aviv Livnat

Veterinarian, Norwegian Wildlife Hospital
wwww.viltsykehuset.no
Facebook: Norwegian Wildlife Hospital
+47 40319426
info@viltsykehuset.no


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