Ever since I visited Singapore’s zoological parks when I was little, I was inspired to work with animals and to return there to volunteer once I gained the necessary qualifications. Now that I have become a qualified registered veterinary nurse (as of June 2017), I returned to work alongside the veterinary team in the animal hospital for Singapore Zoo, River Safari and Night Safari. The collection of wildlife reserves are world leading zoological institutes for conservation and the education of animal welfare. The zoo is unlike any other in the world with enclosures free of cages and unnatural habitats, instead a more natural environment is created with open air, foliage and rivers used to create a barrier to the public. I set out mid-September to work full time for 2 weeks in the animal hospital. This consisted of a fully equipped theatre, large prep room, large animal ward, small animal ward, critical care ward and isolation, all of which was similar to the equipment and machinery I am used to with working at Wallace Vets.
I was incredibly lucky to be there the same time a vet from Germany was over to perform reproductive examinations on the zoo’s highest profile animals in order to assess the breeding situation for conservation reasons such as checking pregnancies or any breeding issues. This involved her using high quality ultrasound equipment which she was able to teach the vets how to perform on their animals for future reference, both performed in the hospital and sometimes in the enclosures. As the vets were being taught, this gave me great responsibility to monitor patient anaesthetics by myself which consists of monitoring and recording heart rate, respiration rate, altering anaesthetic gas levels, checking oxygen saturation, mucus membrane colour, temperature, taking blood samples, placing catheters and monitoring their recovery. The animals I was able to perform this on included 3 spotted hyenas, a male African lion, 2 female white lionesses, a Sri Lankan leopard, a clouded leopard, 2 sun bears and a sloth bear. It was an incredible experience learning how to deal with these dangerous animals, such as the 220kg lion, however my knowledge of monitoring domesticated cats back in Scotland was surprisingly similar which came in really handy! To be honest, procedures such as blood sampling and catheter placement was made much easier due to the size of their large veins, albeit very thick skin.
I was also involved in other procedures such as x-raying a cotton topped tamarin, tortoise, red tipped boa constrictor, slow loris and whistler duck. As well as monitoring the anaesthetics for a cheetah with dental issues, a kangaroo castration (neutering) a peacock who had ingested a nail which needed surgically removed, an African pygmy hedgehog spay (neutering), microchipping and blood sampling of various other species such as golden lion tamarin, baby goat, brush tail possum, dumbo rat, sugar glider and ankole cattle. Other procedures I performed were preparation of an alligator gars (large fish) blood smears for the laboratory and examined their scales under the microscope for any presence of parasites, nebulising a shingle back lizard, gathering nasal swabs of a pygmy hedgehog for diagnostic tests… the list really goes on!
Each day I would begin dealing with the patients in the ward, by feeding them, cleaning out their enclosures, giving medication, both orally and injecting and providing environmental enrichment. The patients I cared for during my time in the ward included a civet, howler monkey, komodo dragon, dog-toothed cat snake, shingle back lizard and baby hawksbill turtle. However, my absolute favourite patient I had the pleasure of assisting with was Pasha, the white tiger. I was involved with his nursing care as well as performing blood sampling, catheter placement for fluid administration, monitoring his sedation and administration of medication due to a suspected pseudomonas infection of the paw.
I cannot believe how incredible it was to apply my knowledge and experience from working with domesticated species in Scotland to a variety of wildlife in Singapore, increasing my knowledge, experience and confidence in my nursing even more. Not only was this trip special with work, I was also over the moon to spend the time with my partner Rory, who after 6 years of being together from age 16, got down on one knee and asked me to marry him… which of course I said yes!