MSc in Wild Animal Health

This world-class specialist Masters course (with exit points at Certificate and Diploma) has produced over 266 graduates, originating from 53 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.

African wild dog

Over the past 40 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 diseases in 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 them. 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.

The Masters in Wild Animal Health is a world-class specialist programme taught jointly by the Royal Veterinary College and the Zoological Society of London. Aimed at qualified veterinarians, the course will equip you with an in-depth knowledge of the management of wild animals and epidemiology, treatment and control of diseases. 

Course Content

Student conducting surgery at London Zoo

This specialist Masters course is completed over one-year full-time study, commencing in the Autumn. The bulk of teaching takes place at The Zoological Society of London, Regents Park, with time also spent at Whipsnade Zoo and Royal Veterinary College, Camden and Hawkshead Campuses. Both Certificate and Diploma levels of study are available. 

The course provides participants with:

  • A critical awareness of current problems in wildlife diseases with implications for wildlife conservation and welfare
  • A new insight into interventions for the health management of captive and free-living wild animals
  • A systematic understanding of the biological principles underpinning wild animal conservation and management, and the epidemiology, diagnosis and  control of wildlife disease
  • Basic competence in veterinary techniques and preventative medicine for wild animals
  • 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
  • A comprehensive understanding of scientific skills, including a critical review of the scientific literature, and design and analysis of laboratory or field studies.

We deliver the course through two terms of lectures, seminars, tutorials and problem-based learning, with modular examinations. The MSc level includes a research project over the summer months (May-August), prior 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. You will learn 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. No levels are available as part-time or distance-learning courses.

Follow the links below for more information on:

Course 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 measurement of 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 and Conditions

We invite applications from candidates with a first or second class honours 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.

Graduates of the MSc Wild Animal Health are, unfortunately, not eligible to apply for either of the European College of Zoological Medicine residencies offered by ZSL/RVC (Zoo Health Management or Wildlife Population Health).  This position is the result of the way these positions are funded and UK government tax rules.

English Requirements

If English is not your first language you will need to provide evidence of proficiency in spoken and written English, including scientific usage and comprehension. You will be required to achieve an overall score of 7.0 in IELTS with a minimum of 6.5.

See English Language Proficiency for further information on our English language requirements.



Course Directors:

Academic Staff

  • Dr Tony Sainsbury, Institute of Zoology

    Tony Sainsbury is the course director based at the Institute of Zoology. He is a Senior Lecturer in Wild Animal Health. Tony’s interests lie in the epidemiology of infectious diseases and the surveillance of diseases in wild animal populations. He is a European Recognised Specialist in Zoological Medicine (Wildlife Population Health).

  • Dr Maria Diez Leon, Royal Veterinary College

    Maria Diez Leon is a senior lecturer in animal welfare and is an RVC-based course director for the Wild Animal Biology and Health course. Maria graduated in Biology at the University of Navarra. She went on to pursue an MSc in Applied Animal Behaviour and Animal Welfare at the University of Edinburgh. Maria embarked on a PhD at the University of Guelph. Under the supervision of Professor Georgia Mason, she investigated how housing conditions affect carnivore behaviour and brain function and the potential implications of this for conservation breeding programmes. Her postdoctoral work, also at Guelph, addressed how cage size per se affects the welfare of farmed mink. 

Fees and Financial Support

See here: MSc Wild Animal Health - Fee Support

Application Deadline

31 July 2022

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 :
Tel : +44 (0) 20 7468 5134

The MSc in Wild Animal Hleath is completed over one- year full-time study, commencing in the autumn. It is taught jointly by the RVC and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) ann consists of three levels.

  • Postgraduate Certificate
  • Postgraduate Diploma 
  • Master of Science Degree

 All three levels start at the same time, towards the end of September each year. The Certificate is taught between September and February, the Diploma between February and May.  The MSc also includes the research project which is undertaken during the summer months, May-August, finishing with a student conference and oral examination in mid-September. None of the levels are available as part-time or distance-learning courses. 

A group of otters at ZSL London Zoo

Certificate in Wild Animal Health


  • Introductory week

You will be introduced to the course objectives, the mission of the partner organisations running the course, and the services you can receive at the ZSL and the RVC.

  • Conservation Biology

You will 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 allocated most successfully using a scientific approach.

  • Principles of Epidemiology and Surveillance 

This module introduces fundamental principles of epidemiology with particular focus on surveillance and risk assessment. These will be relevant to students on the MSc courses in Veterinary Epidemiology, One Health, Wild Animal Health and Wild Animal Biology. The teaching will focus on the theory and its application using a range of examples across species and sectors including wildlife, domestic animals and humans, hence it will be suitable for all courses. Students will be able to apply and build on the key principles taught in this module using course-specific examples in later modules within their respective courses.

  • 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, you will gain a critical understanding of the principles of animal management and preventive medical approaches to maintaining healthy populations and enhance their welfare

  • Interventions 

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 will help you to develop a conceptual understanding of intervention methods.

Baby Western Lowland Gorilla

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. In this module, you will learn about the complex methods required to detect and monitor changes in endemic diseases, detect emergent diseases, and interpret the findings in a scientific manner.

  • Ecosystem Health

Ecosystem health is a rapidly advancing field of scientific inquiry, which will be studied in the context of the health and sustainable utilization of ocean and freshwater fauna. 

  • Evaluation of the health and welfare of captive wild animals

In the Certificate, you will have 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 of health with both reproduction and nutrition.

  • Practical Module

This module covers the complex set of skills required to effectively maintain healthy captive populations of wild animals, and to monitor and intervene in the health of free-living populations. You will gain a conceptual and practical understanding of critical aspects of pharmacology and anaesthesia, pathology, dentistry, and surgery and imaging in wild animals.


Master of Science in Wild Animal Health

As well as successfully completing the PG Certificate and Diploma level modules, an MSc graduate must complete a research project in order to demonstrate:

  • 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 and Projects

In this research planning module, you 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. This will aid you in the completion of your required research projects, conducted between May and mid-August.

More information on research projects:

A Ring Tailed Lemur at ZSL London Zoo


You will be assessed by seven written papers, coursework (scientific review, critical review, scientific presentation, scientific poster and a case report), an individual research project report and an oral examination. All candidates will undertake a full assessment irrespective of their performance in other parts of the course.Recent project reports are submitted in mid-August and oral examinations are held in mid-September.​


Each MSc student undertakes an individual research project, between May and the middle of August, producing a grant application and a scientific paper suitable for submission to a peer-reviewed journal. A conference is held in September where each student gives a presentation on their research findings.  Over 100 scientific publications have resulted from research projects undertaken by MSc WAH and WAB students. The project will encompass a practical study on an approved aspect of wild animal health.

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. Examples of previous WAH students research projects are written below.


I-Ting Tu

How Do Pangolins Move? Locomotor Biomechanics of Chinese Pangolins (Manis pentadactyla) with Normal and Amputated Limbs/Tails

Image of a Pangolin In Taiwan, the key threat to Chinese pangolin extinction is trauma, caused by illegal trapping and dog attacks. I-Ting Tu’s project addressed the need to understand more clearly pangolin locomotion to incorporate this knowledge to the evolution of their welfare and suitability for release if treated and rehabilitated.

The aims of her study were to: 1) quantify locomotor parameters of normal Chinese pangolins and 2) to investigate whether there are differences in gait parameters between normal and amputated pangolins. Through a cooperative conducted on Chinese pangolins at Taipei zoo, Taiwan she collected velocity and ground reaction forces, finding that peak vertical forces exerted by the hindlimbs of the pangolins were 1.7 times greater than the forelimbs, which is uncommon in mammalian species and will contribute to further research in creating criteria for evaluating the welfare of amputees or even releasing them back to the wild.


Maria Puig Ribas 

Circulation of multiple paramyxoviruses in a captive population of African fruit bats in Ghana 

Bats have been identified as a reservoir for several emerging zoonoses, including paramyxoviruses such as Hendra and Nipah virus that often cause fatal disease in humans. African fruit bats are hosts to great diversity of paramyxoviruses and as they roost near urban areas, may pose a spillover risk to humans.

Marias project addressed the need to investigate the viral diversity in reservoir populations, to aid in the prediction and prevention of emerging disease. The aim of her study was to detect paramyxoviruses circulating in a captive colony of Eidolon helvum and establish relationships with viruses detected in free-ranging African fruit bats, using urine samples. She identified multiple paramyxoviruses at a high incidence in the captive colony of E. helvum over a two-month period using four PCR protocols and identified a novel rubulavirus sequence in a free-ranging African fruit bat. 



Career Prospects

The world-class specialist MSc in Wild Animal Health has produced over 266 graduates since its inception in 1994.

Our graduates have gone on to work with both 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 ZSL, the RVC or at other leading research institutes. 

Marcus Clauss WAH 97/98Marcus Clauss

After studying veterinary medicine, Marcus Clauss did the MSc course in Wild Animal Health. The MSc research project on the feeding and digestive physiology of captive giraffe got him into contact with his next employer, the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin, Germany. His next research was in the field of nondomestic herbivore nutrition, working on moose, black and greater one-horned rhino, hippos and various ruminant species. He did a 5-year postdoc period at the Institute of Animal Physiology, Physiological Chemistry and Animal Nutrition at the University of Munich, before he found tenure as the Head of Research at the Clinic for Zoo Animals, Exotic Pets and Wildlife at the University of Zurich. He is actively involved in graduate and postgraduate education (and also teaches on the MSc WAH nowadays), has supervised a large number of MSc and PhD theses, and continued his research in the area of digestive physiology, anatomy and nutrition of various herbivores, omnivores and carnivores; he has since worked on topics from life history, husbandry and zoo management. 

Céline Le Rochais, Université de Montréal, Québec, Canada.

Celine Le Rochais - MSc in Wild Animal Health"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."


Dr. Khyne U Mar BVS, MSc, MPhil, PhD, FRVCS

Khyne Mar - MSc in Wild Animal Health"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."

Richard D Suu-ire

Richard Suu Ire - MSc Wild Animal Health "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 also 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."

Claudio Soto-Azat, MV, MSc, PhD, Universidad Andres Bello, ChileClaudio Soto-Azat - MSc in Wild Animal Health

"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."

Rea Tschopp, Armauer Hansen Research Institute, Ethiopia and Swiss Tropical Institute

Rea Tschopp  - MSc Wild Animal Health "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."


Naveena BaboolalPersuing a Masters in Wild Animal Health was a dream come through and one of the best experiences. This course gave me a chance to be lectured and work alongside Veterinarians that wrote the wildlife textbooks that I studied from. It broadened my knowledge on wildlife medicine and management and welfare of wildlife. It also stimulated my interest in conservation and emerging diseases. The practical component was my favourite as we were on rotations at well-established Zoos. It was a great opportunity to network with people from around the world and build a rapport. I am still in contact with my colleagues and contact them when I need a consult. I am sure this masters will help me advance in my career, as I am now the first qualified Wildlife Veterinarian in my home country of Trinidad. 
Naveena Baboolal WAH 15/16


Marcus Clauss The MSc course was a brilliant opportunity to get exposure to a large number of specialists - their knowledge but also their various fascinating characters. The resources of the IoZ and the course modules allowed me to delve into so many topics of zoo animal biology and management that I still profit from today. Most of all, the quest for my own MSc topic, and the planning and performing of the experiments and labwork, were a forming experience that made me feel I can achieve a lot if I just set my energy to it, and the drive and confidence I gained at the time is still with me when I plan new projects today. The MSc course gave my body and soul an arena in which to act out the dreams I had at the time, which laid out - without me knowing - the path to my professional future.
Marcus Clauss WAH 97/98

Joshua Hui​The special design of this MSc course encouraged me to seek answers by myself and through the discussions with the colleagues who have different academic backgrounds and perspectives. Also, the lecturers are the real experts working on various fields, from animal welfare to veterinary medicine, from captive wildlife management to field research, they equipped me with extensive theoretical knowledge and practical skills in both in-situ conservation and ex-situ wildlife management. The most attractive part of the course was to develop my own research based on my interests. I travelled to Yunnan, China to study the human-elephant conflict issue which was a valuable experience and provided a good starting point for my future career in China.
Michael Hui WAH 15/16
Hugo Richardson - MSc in Wild Animal HealthThe 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'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'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'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'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

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