Since establishing the Boongary Veterinary Service in 1993, Dr Annabelle Olsson has had a diverse career working with an array of taxa present in far-north Queensland. And while the difficulties of treating exotic animals and wildlife are many, Annabelle says one of the key challenges is managing rehabilitation.

Croc

“I find challenges in every aspect of my practice, but particularly rehabilitation considerations,” Annabelle says.

“With free-living wildlife you have to look beyond patient-to-patient treatment. There are a lot of things you can cure, but you have to euthanise on the basis that you are not going to be able to rehabilitate.”

“We are often dealing with members of the public who want to hand-raise, sometimes for reasons that aren’t bearing on conservation and rehabilitation. We are constantly dealing with that emotional baggage.”

But Annabelle’s work with wildlife has also exposed her to many interesting opportunities, including being called upon to help with forensic investigations.

“I provide a lot of expert evidence for the RSPCA and the Department of Environment and Heritage Protection,” Annabelle says.

“Seized reptiles are a big issue up here. I have been asked to assess collections of seized animals. I’m also involved in cruelty investigations, such as wildlife that’s been injured or killed illegally.”

Further to aiding with investigations, Annabelle also performs necropsies on a range of deceased species to determine cause of death in unusual circumstances.

“There are a variety of reasons for necropsy. Any unusual death will be investigated,” Annabelle says.

“I have done a number of forensic examinations on crocodiles and recovered human remains sufficient to giving the family closure and satisfy the coroner.”

Annabelle finds this aspect of her work both interesting and challenging, due to anatomical divergence of the species she works on and geographic considerations.

“Large crocodiles have a slightly different anatomy to other reptiles because they have a pseudo diaphragm, but large sea turtles are a particularly interesting exercise,” Annabelle says.

“A lot of these animals are so big that you are doing the necropsy on site. I’ve done post-mortems on animals on the back of trucks, on the beach, on the side of rivers. It’s usually backbreaking work.”

But despite the difficulties involved in wildlife veterinary services, Annabelle relishes in the diversity of species she has the opportunity to work with and treat.

“We did a tally of the number of species we see in the practice in a given year. Without thinking for too long, we came up with about 300. And that goes all the way through the different taxon groups,” Annabelle says.

“Just when you think you’ve seen the most unusual and coolest animal you could ever imagine, something else comes in. There are so many unique and exciting animals we deal with.”

Annabelle will be speaking at the 2017 FASAVA Congress about her 30-year veterinary journey, and on melioidosis in captive Lumholtz Tree Kangaroos. She is looking forward to catching up with colleagues and like-minded peers.

“One of the things I am looking forward to most in presenting my tree roo paper is actually getting some feedback from my learned colleagues on how we might manage the problem,” she says.

“Being based in far-north Queensland, which is geographically remote, I take great pleasure in interacting with like-minded people, people following the same intellectual interests.”

The 2017 FASAVA Congress is being held on the Gold Coast from 11 – 14 August.
Register today to ensure you don’t miss the opportunity to hear from leading veterinary experts.