MSc in Wild Animal Health

This world-class specialist Masters course (with exit points at Certificate and Diploma) has produced over 208 graduates, originating from 49 countries, since its inception in 1994. It provides qualified veterinarians with a critical understanding of the management of wild animals and the epidemiology, treatment and control of wildlife disease.

Over the last 30 years, interventions, for reasons of health, welfare and the conservation, of free-living wild animals have been undertaken with increasing frequency. Specialist veterinary expertise is required in order to assess and control the risk of accidental disease introduction to wildlife.

Emerging infectious diseases are also recognised as a serious hazard both for wild animals, and for the domestic animal and human populations that interact with these species. In addition, a large number of wild animal species are kept in captivity; in zoos and in laboratories, which has led to an increased demand for specialist skills and knowledge.

Participants of this course graduate with the analytical skills, the understanding, the confidence and the language to influence thinking and policy making within organisations.

Objectives

A graduate of the Certificate in Wild Animal Health must demonstrate:

  • a conceptual understanding of population dynamics, threats to wildlife populations and how resources can be allocated for wildlife conservation
  • a critical understanding of epidemiology and the impact of disease on wild animal populations
  • The ability to evaluate interventions for the management of captive and free-living wild animals including their ethics
  • a systematic understanding of the biological principles underpinning wild animal management, and the husbandry, care and welfare of wild animals

A graduate of the Diploma in Wild Animal Health must demonstrate (in addition to the achievements of the PG Certificate):

  • A critical awareness of methods to detect disease, disease surveillance systems and the effects of emerging diseases on captive and free living wild animal health
  • A conceptual and practical understanding of the diagnosis, management, investigation (pathology), treatment and control of disease in captive and free-living wild animal populations
  • a comprehensive insight into the interdependence of human, domestic animal and ecosystem health
  • a creative approach to the evaluation of the health, welfare and reproduction of captive and free-living wild animals

A graduate of the Master of Science in Wild Animal Health must demonstrate (in addition to the achievements of the PG Certificate and Diploma):

  • A comprehensive understanding of research and inquiry including (i) critical appraisal of the literature, (ii) scientific writing and (iii) scientific presentation
  • The ability to design and analyse hypothesis-driven laboratory and/or field studies

Entry Requirements

Applications are invited from candidates with a degree from a recognised veterinary school and at least one year of postgraduate veterinary experience.

We are keen to see evidence of relevant work experience in a zoo, wildlife rehabilitation centre or wildlife hospital.

English Requirements

Applicants whose first language is not English will be required to provide evidence of proficiency in spoken and written English, including scientific usage and comprehension. They will be required to achieve an overall score of 7.0 in IELTS with a minimum of 6.5 in each sub-test; or a TOEFL score of at least 93 (internet-based test with no element below 23), or 580 (paper-based test plus 4.5 in the Test of Written English (TWE)/Essay rating).

Programme Content

The course is completed over one year full-time study, commencing in Autumn 2013. It is taught jointly by the Zoological Society of London and the Royal Veterinary College.

Graduates are equipped with:

  • a critical awareness of current problems in wildlife disease with implications for wildlife conservation and welfare, and a new insight into veterinary interventions for the management of captive and free-living wild animals, through gaining a systematic understanding of the biological principles underpinning wild animal conservation and management, and the epidemiology, diagnosis and treatment of wildlife disease;
  • basic competence in veterinary techniques and preventative medicine for wild animals; and
  • a conceptual and practical understanding of how established techniques of research and enquiry are used to create knowledge in the field of wild animal health, and a comprehensive understanding of scientific skills, including critical review of the scientific literature, and design and analysis of laboratory or field studies

Course Structure

  • Taught component, with modular examinations.
  • Certificate and Diploma levels are available. Please see Programme Structure for more information.
  • An individual research project, carried out during the summer months, leading to final assessment.

The course is organised by discipline (e.g. epidemiology, anaesthesiology, virology), with information relating to specific taxa included in lectures throughout the course. The course teaches the principles of each subject and taxa-specific lectures are included to exemplify these principles.

Course participants play an active role in lectures, seminars, tutorials and clinical work.

Duration of Course Study

Full-time for one year, with exit points at Certificate and Diploma.

Career Prospects

Graduates go on to work with captive and free-living wild animals as clinicians, pathologists, epidemiologists, academics and senior management in zoological collections, national parks, universities and government departments worldwide.

Others continue to work towards a PhD or DVetMed, either with the RVC or at another leading research institute.

 

Course Directors:

Academic Staff

  • Dr Tony Sainsbury, Institute of Zoology
  • Michael Waters, Royal Veterinary College

Fees and Financial Support

See here: MSc Wild Animal Health - Fee Support

How do I apply?

See here: MSc Wild Animal Health - How Do I Apply

Or contact:

The Graduate School
The Royal Veterinary College
Royal College Street
London NW1 0TU
United Kingdom

Email : graduateschool@rvc.ac.uk
Tel : +44 (0) 20 7468 5134
Fax : +44 (0) 20 7468 5060 

The MSc in Wild Animal Health consists of 3 levels:

  • Postgraduate Certificate
  • Postgraduate Diploma and the
  • Masters of Science Degree.

These levels start at the same time, towards the end of September each year and broadly speaking can be broken down into three terms. The Certificate consists of term 1 (September to December), the diploma goes on to include term 2 (January to May) and the MSc also includes the research project which is undertaken during the summer months, finishing in mid-September.

These levels are not available as part-time or distance learning courses.

Certificate in Wild Animal Health

Introductory week

Students are introduced to the Course objectives, the mission of the partner organizations running the Course and the services you can receive at the Zoological Society of London and the Royal Veterinary College.

Conservation Biology Module

In this module we develop a conceptual understanding of which species and populations are vulnerable to extinction, how we can monitor their population dynamics and how resources to conserve species can be most successfully allocated using a scientific approach.

The Impact of Disease on Populations

The effects of diseases on populations can be complex but even subtle influences can markedly unbalance free-living and captive populations of wild animals. An understanding of these effects requires a critical evaluation of epidemiology and the population biology of infectious agents, and armed with this knowledge we can make informed decisions on control methods, where these are considered an ethical approach.

Health and welfare of captive wild animals

Considering the enormous diversity of animal species, the management of healthy populations in captivity is an exacting challenge. In this module we gain a critical understanding of the principles of animal management and preventive medical approaches to maintain healthy populations and enhance their welfare.

Interventions Module

Where anthropogenic threats endanger free-living populations of animals, people increasingly see a need to intervene for the conservation or welfare of these populations. However, given the need to understand complex ecological systems, the disease risks of manipulating them and the potential stress of intervention methods, such activities require detailed planning, highly skilled input and scientific evaluation to ensure lessons are learned. Using real examples this module develops a conceptual understanding of intervention methodology.

Diploma in Wild Animal Health

Detection, surveillance and emerging diseases

Morbidity and mortality in free-living populations of wild animals are difficult to detect and monitor given ecosystem processes and the bias of convenience sampling strategies. Complex methods are required to detect and monitor changes in endemic diseases and to detect emergent diseases, and interpret the findings in a scientific manner.

Ecosystem Health Module

The strong interdependence between the health of people, their domestic animals and free-living wildlife (the one-health concept) is a rapidly advancing field of scientific inquiry as illustrated by studies on the health of ocean fauna, and we develop our understanding through this example and how policy has developed.

Evaluation of the health and welfare of captive wild animals

In the Certificate we gained a critical understanding of the management and preventive medical care required to maintain healthy populations. In this Module we investigate the scientific evaluation of wild animal welfare and critically analyse the relationship between health and firstly reproduction, and secondly, nutrition.

Practical Module

Our ability to effectively maintain healthy captive populations of wild animals, and monitor and intervene in the health of free-living populations requires a complex set of skills covered in detail in this Module, where we will gain a conceptual and practical understanding of critical aspects of pharmacology and anaesthesia, pathology, dentistry, and surgery and imaging in wild animals.

MSc in Wild Animal Health

A graduate of the Master of Science in Wild Animal Health must demonstrate (in addition to the achievements of the PG Certificate and Diploma):

  • A comprehensive understanding of research and inquiry including (i) critical appraisal of the literature, (ii) scientific writing and (iii) scientific presentation
  • The ability to design and analyse hypothesis-driven laboratory and/or field studies

Research Planning

In this module we will develop the extensive skills required to design and conduct practical research projects, critically appraise and review the literature, deliver effective scientific presentations, and write scientific papers suitable for submission to peer-reviewed journals.

Project

Each student will be required to undertake an individual research project, between May and the middle of August, and to submit a typewritten report not exceeding 10,000 words in the form of a grant application and a scientific paper suitable for submission to a peer-reviewed journal. The project will encompass a practical study on an approved aspect of wild animal health. The project may be undertaken at any place approved by the Institute/College with the guidance of a course supervisor.

Assessment

The course is assessed by four written papers, course work (written reports), an individual research project report and an oral examination for all candidates, irrespective of their performance in other parts of the course.

Project reports are submitted in the middle of August and oral examinations are held in mid-September.

The research project provides the opportunity to study a topic suited to the student’s desired career. A wide variety of topic areas have been chosen including welfare, behaviour, infectious diseases, reproduction, nutrition, rehabilitation and management of both captive and free-living wild animals.  The project may be undertaken at any place approved by the Zoological Society of London/Royal Veterinary College with the guidance of a course supervisor.

Research projects can be undertaken throughout the world annd the map below shows the locations where MSc Wild Animal Health students have studied.

WAH Research project locations 1994-2014
Locations of the MSc Wild Animal Health Research Projects

 

Celine Le Rochais - MSc in Wild Animal Health
Celine Le Rochais
The MSc Wild Animal Health has been a very enriching experience, both from human and professional perspective. It was the opportunity to broaden my knowledge in wild animal medicine and increase my awareness on conservation issues. I am now enrolled in a wildlife medicine residency in Canada. I am convinced the MSc gave me the necessary background to reach that position, and will help me in the future to achieve the ACZM board certification.
Céline Le Rochais, Université de Montréal, Québec, Canada.
Khyne Mar - MSc in Wild Animal Health
Khyne Mar
I have been previously employed by the Myanma Timber Enterprise, Ministry of Forestry as the Head of Elephant Section, Extraction Department. I attended MSc (Wild Animal Health) Course in 2000. The course gave me the opportunity to pursue PhD programme which reflects my own unique interests in Asian elephant ecology and population demography. After finishing my PhD in 2007, I worked as the Asian Elephant Consultant in SE Asian countries and in zoological collections in UK. Currently I work in the position of Post-doctoral Research Associate at the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, UK. I am taking the role of Project Co-ordinator of Myanmar Elephant Research Project. I co-supervise PhD and MSc projects with Dr, Virpi Lummaa (Reader in Evolutionary Biology at the University of Sheffield). I oversee research activities in Myanmar and liaise between International scientists and the Myanmar Government. Our research group aims to determine factors affecting health, fertility and mortality rates in the captive elephants of Myanmar and devising strategies to improve them.
Dr. Khyne U Mar BVS, MSc, MPhil, PhD, FRVCS
Richard Suu Ire - MSc Wild Animal Health
Richard D Suu-ire
Following my completion of the MSc in Wild Animal Health in 2006, I was appointed as a wildlife veterinary epidemiologist. I actively participated in the control of many diseases including the Avian Influenza outbreak in Ghana in April 2007, and am Unit Head of the Wildlife Surveillance Unit of the European Union Avian Influenza Project in Ghana and a member of the Avian Influenza Ghana National Working Group. I have worked closely with a range of leading international research institutions and organizations, such as WHO, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (USA), and I am currently collaborating with the Institute of Zoology (ZSL), Animal Health laboratory Agency and the Cambridge University (UK). This collaboration focuses on viral zoonoses of fruit bats; the findings of this have been published in leading international journals and presented at international scientific fora. I am aslo a PhD student at the University of Ghana with affiliation with the Institute of zoology. I am the Immediate past president of the Commonwealth Veterinary Association (CVA), and currently the first vice president. The MSc in Wild Animal Health has been very helpful in shaping my career.
Richard D Suu-ire
Claudio Soto-Azat - MSc in Wild Animal Health
Claudio Soto-Azat
I have been involved in animal conservation since 2004 when I became veterinary surgeon in Chile. In 2006/7 I followed my MSc studies in Wild Animal Health and since then I have continued being linked with ZSL through my PhD in Conservation Medicine and the EDGE Programme. The MSc in Wild Animal Health is one of the most important experiences in my life. Professionally, I developed in the areas of wildlife medicine, wildlife population health and conservation, but personally I also made excellent friends from all over the world and I growth as a person. Today, I am academic and researcher at the Faculty of Ecology and Natural Resources, Universidad Andres Bello, Chile, and always I have felt deeply grateful from the MSc programme.
Claudio Soto-Azat, MV, MSc, PhD, Universidad Andres Bello, Chile
Rea Tschopp  - MSc Wild Animal Health
Rea Tschopp
Following the completion of my MSc in Wild Animal Health in 2003 I worked as a wildlife veterinarian for 2 years before starting a PhD in Epidemiology at the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, investigating Bovine tuberculosis at the human-livestock-wildlife interface in Ethiopia. I am currently a research team leader in Zoonosis/One-Health where wildlife and ecosystem health play a big role. Besides being a researcher, I also continue to work as a practicing wildlife veterinarian in Ethiopia as well as lecturing wildlife medicine, and epidemiology at several veterinary faculties at under-and postgraduate levels. The MSc program was without doubt the most important stepping stone in my career.
Rea Tschopp, Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia and Swiss Tropical Institute

 

Hugo Richardson - MSc in Wild Animal Health
Hugo Richardson
The Masters in Wild Animal Health was a fantastic introduction into the conservation science arena. The course gave us a firm grounding in the basic tools needed for a role in conservation, with a diverse range of speakers providing lectures in their specialist fields, ranging from statistics and virology through to practical classes on remote capture techniques and cetacean rescue. For those interested in a job in conservation, or who just want to discover more about this rapidly emerging field of science, I would highly recommend this course.
Hugo Richardson, MSc WAH 2009/10.

Sreejith Radhakrishnan - MSc in Wild Animal Health
Sreejith Radhakrishnan
'The MSc course in Wild Animal Health was memorable in more ways than one. Personally, it encouraged me to ask critical questions and seek answers, and fit well with my nature to learn by myself. The course gives great emphasis on the diseases and treatment of wildlife from a unique eco-system and conservation medicine perspective, something that is invaluable in today’s changing wildlife conservation scenario. The chance to work with excellent wildlife veterinarians and biologists at one of the premier wildlife conservation societies in the world is also an experience not to be missed. I made great friends and some relationships that will last a lifetime. All in all, this MSc. course brilliantly encapsulates the exceedingly vast field of wildlife and conservation medicine in a short period of one year, and is highly recommended for anyone looking to get into this field.'
Sreejith Radhakrishnan, Assistant Forest Veterinary Officer, Periyar Tiger Reserve, India.
Supaphen Sripiboon - MSc in Wild Animal Health
Supaphen Sripiboon
'The MSc Wild Animal Health not only give me knowledge on wildlife veterinary medicine but also open my mind to the conservation aspect, which is very important currently. It’s been also a great opportunity to learn and work with a famous institution like ZSL, IoZ or RVC. Even now I’m back to work at my home country, I still contact my friends and colleagues over there. This course is one of the best experience in my life.'
Supaphen Sripiboon, Kasetsart University, Thailand.
Alejandra Montalba - MSc in Wild Animal Health
Alejandra Montalba
'I am a Chilean veterinarian that due to my passion for wildlife wanted to continue expanding my knowledge, spending a year in the clinic of Chile's National Zoo and participating in various internships at zoos in Canada and USA. Once working at the Official Veterinary Service of Chile I chose the MSc WAH in order to obtain tools to discover what needs to be done in my country in terms of wildlife. The MSc WAH not only gave me those helpful tools, but also broadened my view about the important role we play as professionals for the conservation of species worldwide.'
Alejandra Montalba, Chile.
Sandra Wenger - MSc in Wild Animal Health
Sandra Wenger
'Through the MSc Wild Animal Health I was able to broaden my knowledge in wildlife, zoological and conservation medicine. My MSc project allowed me to gain experience in the field working with free-ranging animals. I met lots of interesting people during my MSc who provided with me further opportunities such as the chance to perform an internship at the Dubai falcon hospital. After my MSc I completed a residency in zoological medicine at the Zurich zoo and became ACZM board certified in 2012. Since 2011 I work as senior lecturer at the Zurich zoo and Clinic for zoo animals, exotic pets and wildlife at the University of Zurich.'
Sandra Wenger, Dipl. ACZM, Dipl. ECVAA, MSc, University of Zurich, Switzerland