The autumn term has been a busy one from many perspectives. Second year Animal Management students have been on a range of visits to London Zoo and Marwell Wildlife to support assignment work, whilst our third years had the opportunity to visit the incredible resources at the Zoological Society of London library to undertake dissertation research.
We have also welcomed a range of guest speakers from industry, including some of our own graduates who are now forging successful careers in animal management. There have been several new arrivals at the Animal Management Centre, the most obvious of which (or at least the most vocal) is the pair of Australian kookaburras who now reside in the pheasantry.
We have also been sending Sparsholt-bred animals to other collections – two pairs of the critically endangered electric blue dwarf gecko were recently delivered to Birmingham Wildlife Conservation Park as part of ongoing efforts to establish a viable captive population of these lizards. We will be promoting our work with this species more widely in the New Year as a flagship for our growing conservation and research involvement.
In Veterinary Nursing, our first year students are approaching the end of their first term and after Christmas will be heading into practice to experience life in the workplace. As they leave, our second year nurses will be returning to College, having spent this term in practice putting all of their first year teaching to practical use.
Second year BSc Animal Management students had the opportunity to get involved in an important conservation initiative linked to research work being carried out by the University of Koblenz-Landau and Zoo Dortmund (both in Germany). The study aims to determine the correct species identification of two very similar species of poison dart frog – one of which we breed very successfully at the Animal Management Centre.
In order to ensure that captive populations are being appropriately managed, it is essential that all animals within the captive population are correctly identified. The frogs were first caught up from their large and densely planted enclosure and then individually swabbed and photographed according to specific procedural guidelines. The swabs were then sent for genetic analysis to the University of Koblenz-Landau to determine which of the two species they belong to. Epipedobates anthonyi is abundant in zoo collections, however, is frequently misidentified as E. tricolor. In contrast, true E. tricolor are very rare in captivity and highly endangered in the wild.
Over the summer, the AMC has welcomed a number of new faces to its animal collection. Amongst the mammals, perhaps the most notable is our Kirks dikdik – a small species of African antelope, whilst amongst the birds, we are particularly pleased to announce the arrival of white faced scops owl. Notable reptile additions include green tree python, green tree monitor lizard, Annam leaf turtle and mangrove snake.
Our involvement in conservation work continues to increase and we can report particular success with our ever growing population of the critically endangered blue dwarf gecko. We are in the process of developing links in the geckos native range in Tanzania which will allow us to support this species in the wild as well as in captivity. We have also taken on a new group of radiated tortoises that were part of an illegal customs confiscation and which, after quarantine, will add to our existing and growing herd of this beautiful endangered species.
In 2013/14 the FdSc Veterinary Nursing Science course gained full accreditation from the RCVS (Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons). The practical examinations, or OSCEs (Objective Structured Clinical Examinations), are run by Sparsholt College as an accredited centre. We are very proud to report that the pass rate for these practical exams was 100% in 2014.
Well done to the students, who recited their pledge to the RCVS at this year’s graduation in July.