Wild Animal Health Fund + Mazuri®: Moving Exotic Animal Research Forward Together

Established in 2012, the Wild Animal Health Fund was conceptualized by the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians to help build a deeper understanding for treating and caring for exotic animals and wildlife. From elephants to hummingbirds and everything in between, the Wild Animal Health Fund is dedicated to helping zoo animals and wildlife thrive.  

“Since the beginning, we’ve been proud to support the Wild Animal Health Fund. Through research we can expand the industry’s understanding of the unique nutritional needs of the animals we feed, which is important in improving the lives of exotic animals,” says Dr. Troy Tollefson, Ph.D. Nutritionist, Research & Development for Mazuri®

“Mazuri® has played a significant role in helping us get the fund started. If it hadn't been for their early support, I don't know that the idea of the Wild Animal Health Fund would have come to fruition” says Dr. Rob Hilsenroth, Executive Director of the Wild Animal Health Fund.

Building Gaps in Knowledge

When compared to domestic animals, much is yet to be learned about many exotic animal species. Due to the sheer number of species, and lack of funding for research, the body of scientific knowledge about exotic animals is quite small. In fact, for some species, so little is known about them that there aren’t even baseline clinical values available. Without adequate information for characteristics such as an animal’s weight, blood pressure, and nutritional needs, developing medical treatments and balancing diets can be challenging.

“Imagine trying to treat an animal or balance a diet when you don’t even know it’s proper weight. We are doing the critical work to provide these baseline values, as well as diagnostic techniques, surgery, and medical treatments” says Hilsenroth.

Creating Change One Project at a Time

In the four years that the Wild Animal Health Fund has existed, numerous research projects have been completed to help support advances in veterinary technology to improve the lives of exotic animals and wildlife.

One recent example is research done at the San Diego Zoo that has helped reduce recovery times for bald eagles and other birds of prey through veterinary technology advancements with pain management. 

Through a Wild Animal Health Fund research grant, Meredith M. Clancy, DVM, MPH has been able to do research using an osmotic pump to dispense metered medication in a less invasive way than conventional injections. The use of osmotic pumps has been shown to reduce the amount of interactions with humans; and birds that received pain medication from an osmotic pump recovered significantly faster than those who did not. In some cases, recovery times decreased by as much as fifty percent. Practically speaking, this technology means injured bald eagles may recover fast enough to reunite with their mates -- keeping a breeding pair intact.

For another example of Wild Animal Health Fund research currently impacting the lives of animals, look to the elephant seal. Research from Daniel Fletcher DVM, Ph.D., and Shawn Johnson DVM has made advancements in reducing seal pup mortality from lungworm by using epsilon-aminocaproic acid, a medication used to treat hemophilia in humans. While more research needs to be done, early results are promising in improving the outlook for seal pups.

Looking Towards the Future

Research from a Wild Animal Health Fund has broad-reaching effects. Researchers who receive Wild Animal Health Fund grants are encouraged to make their research publicly available in academic journals to ensure that the information will be accessible to all veterinarians and scientists. If the first four years of ground-breaking research is an indication of future results, the next four should be nothing short of amazing. 

To learn more about the Wild Animal Health Fund, visit www.wildanimalhealthfund.org.