International Collaboration

Visiting Veterinarian from the Nashville Zoo

  • by Dr. Margarita Woc Colburn October 3, 2019
Visiting Veterinarian from the Nashville Zoo

I recently had the good fortune of traveling with Dr. Laurie Marker to Somaliland to help perform health assessments on cheetahs confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade. I have known Laurie, Executive Director of the Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF), for almost 10 years. We first met at the CCF Centre in Namibia, where I completed part of my veterinary residency at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo back in 2009. Our mutual love of cheetahs ensured that we remained in touch over the years. For the past year, I have been following Laurie’s challenges dealing with the cheetah cubs confiscated from the illegal pet trade in Somaliland, and when she asked for my help with sick cheetah cubs after several large confiscation events, I jumped at the chance.

Our recent mission was daunting: conduct comprehensive health examinations on all the cheetahs at the safe house in just two days. To get the job done, we received assistance from five other veterinarians and technicians representing South Africa, the UK, Romania, and Somaliland. We met shortly after our plane landed, and an hour later, we were stocking the clinic as an international team. Examining 31 cheetahs was a physically and logistically demanding task. Space was tight. Anesthetic protocols needed to be determined on the spot. Donated medical supplies needed to be used wisely, to ensure there was enough for all the procedures. Despite the challenges, we pulled together and got the job done.

Some of my friends wondered why I would fly halfway around the world and volunteer for CCF. My response was, I can think of no better way to spend my time and Nashville Zoo’s resources than by giving these cheetah cubs a chance at a better life. Supporting CCF’s efforts, to stop the illegal wildlife trade in the Horn of Africa, and preventing the extinction of cheetahs, is front-line wildlife conservation.

I highly recommend supporting CCF to anyone who wants to help cheetahs outrun extinction.

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