6:30pm – 7:30pm in Lecture Theatre 2 at the Vet School.  Cake and drinks from 6:15pm.

Talk free for members, £1 for non-members.


This week’s talk is given by patrons of CUVZS, John E Cooper DTVM FRCPath FSB CBiol FRCVS
and Margaret E Cooper LLB FLS on the challenges faced by veterinary surgeons working overseas:


Working Overseas: Culture, Conflicts and Challenges

Working overseas, especially in tropical countries, appeals to a significant number of young veterinary surgeons – and also to students who are looking for projects. It may involve domesticated animals, wildlife, or both.

Wildlife work overseas can contribute to conservation and welfare. It may involve the rescue/rehabilitation of endangered, threatened or vulnerable species. It often attracts widespread publicity and it sometimes generates funding.

Overseas work is often undertaken by veterinary surgeons and veterinary students with a passionate desire to contribute to the wider world but who sometimes have little experience of the country or of the conditions where they are going to be based.

In this lecture we outline some of the important considerations when embarking upon short- or long-term service overseas. We draw particular attention to the challenges that such work can present.

Veterinary activities abroad may necessitate special requirements and careful planning and can expose those involved to hazards and risks. Cultural considerations are likely to be important. In the case of wildlife work, it is in the nature of free-living animals that they are usually found in remote places and in difficult terrain and environments where problems are likely to be enhanced. Animals may have to be observed or caught, handled, and released without damage or loss. The facilities and equipment available may not be optimal and are likely to call for special precautions if both fieldworkers and the animals are to be adequately protected. New or unusual procedures, cultures, climate, political unrest and other issues that are presented by overseas work can challenge even the most experienced and skilled veterinary professionals. All have legal, ethical and practical implications.

Our lecture is based on our experience as a husband and wife/veterinary pathologist and lawyer team; we visit and carry out field studies in various parts of the world but (an important point) we have also lived as expatriates for substantial periods in various countries – East and Central Africa, Arabia and the West Indies.

Further Reading

British Veterinary Association: Guidance Notes on Working/Volunteering Overseas.

Cooper JE. (2013). Editor. Field Techniques in Exotic Animal Medicine.  Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine 22(1).

Cooper, M. E. (2013). Legal, ethical and practical considerations of working in the field. In: Field Techniques in Exotic Animal Medicine. Journal of Exotic Pet Medicine 22(1), 17-33.

The Coopers

John and Margaret Cooper are a husband and wife team, from the United Kingdom. John E Cooper trained as a veterinary surgeon and is now a specialist pathologist with particular interests in wildlife and exotic species, tropical diseases and comparative medicine. Margaret E Cooper is a lawyer who trained originally as a British solicitor and has made the study of animal and conservation law her special interest.

The Coopers have travelled widely and lectured together in many countries. They have spent nearly ten years living in Africa, including a period in Rwanda working with the mountain gorillas. In 2009 they returned from nearly seven years at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago where they combined their medical and legal backgrounds in the promotion of an interdisciplinary approach to veterinary and biological education, wildlife conservation and forensic science. They are now based in Britain, where they hold several visiting academic appointments. They continue their work with wildlife, domesticated animals and rural communities in East Africa.

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