UC Davis Veterinary Medicine News, Spring/Summer 1997

School Members Aid Disaster Victims
at Home and Abroad

School of Veterinary Medicine students, staff and faculty members volunteered to help with rescue efforts and care for animals affected by simultaneous disasters that occurred in early January, severe flooding in Northern California and a major oil spill in Japan.

Northern California Floods

A group of 24 veterinary students received the 1996-97 UC Davis Community Service Award for outstanding volunteer service to animal and human victims in the aftermath of the New Year's flooding.
During the first weekend of January, just after the height of the deluge, a small group of veterinary students and faculty members went into the flooded area near Olivehurst, California, to help rescue and treat animals stranded in high water.
During the next several days, as hundreds of animals were brought in to the Placer County Fairgrounds emergency shelter, veterinary students served in eight-hour shifts providing care and daily medical management for large and small animal disaster victims including dogs, cats, rabbits, horses, pigs and cattle. The students also collected blankets, food and clothing for human flood victims.
The students treated sick and injured animals around-the-clock, built kennels, photographed animals for identification by their owners, gave tetanus vaccinations, sutured lacerations and treated eye infections. The students provided help in housing, feeding, grooming and exercising displaced animals as well as help in reuniting animals with their owners. In addition, they provided owners with information on the care of infections and wounds on their pets and livestock, hoof care, diet and the importance of vaccination.

Japan Oil Spill

When the Russian oil tanker Nakhodka ran aground in the Sea of Japan January 2 and split apart, the resulting 962,000 gallon oil slick (one-quarter the volume of the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill) spread along the west coast of Honshu, the main island of Japan.
Scott Newman, oil spill response veterinarian with the school's Wildlife Health Center, was invited with Harry Carter of the U.S. Geologic Survey and Dr. Roger Helm of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to provide advice and assistance to the Japanese government in assessing the extent of wildlife injury and to provide help with oiled wildlife care. Dr. Newman says, "Since this was only the second large scale spill involving wildlife in Japan, veterinarians, biologists and rehabilitators were very interested in learning the best techniques available for oiled wildlife care."
The three traveled throughout the spill zone and provided assistance to the Japan Environment Agency, the Oiled Bird Information Committee, the Wildlife Rescue Veterinarian Association, and government and non-profit organizations including the Wild Bird Society of Japan and the Japan Alcid Society. Dr. Newman, who focused on rehabilitation issues, visited several temporary seabird facilities, where the majority of birds being treated were from the Alcid family, Ancient Murrelets, Marbled Murrelets, Japanese Murrelets and Rhinoceros Auklets, along with several other species including Red-necked Grebes, Black-Tailed Gulls, Japanese Cormorants and Black Scoters. The Japanese Murrelet is an endangered species and is the rarest Alcid in the world. The Streaked Shearwater, another endangered species, may also be affected during its breeding season in Japan.
With the aid of an interpreter, Dr. Newman conducted numerous seminars and training sessions for Japanese wildlife personnel on care, rehabilitation and release of oiled seabirds, including demonstrations on cleaning and feeding oiled birds, and techniques for monitoring the health of cleaned birds, procedures that are used by participants in California's Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), which is administered through the Wildlife Health Center. Some presentations were videotaped, and almost all were attended by the media. Information presented by Dr. Newman was also translated into Japanese and made available on the Internet.
Japan parliament member Ms. Akiko Domoto and the Wildlife Rescue Veterinarian Association of Japan are interested in establishing an oiled wildlife care program similar to the OWCN, says Dr. Newman. The three scientists helped Japanese care personnel establish protocols for collection, handling, health assessment, cleaning, care, rehabilitation and release of oiled wildlife, and gave recommendations for documenting wildlife injury and implementing training programs for future oil spill response work.

UC Davis veterinary researcher Scott Newman holds two Ancient Murrelets that have been cleaned after being rescued from an oil spill in Japan (right). Photo: Lab at Nishikawa Wild Bird Sanctuary

Photo: Ancient Murrelets Seabirds housed in cardboard boxes can develop sores on their feet and breasts. Dr. Newman guided staff at the Ishikawa Wild Bird Sanctuary in creating suspended mesh flooring in the boxes to support the birds mor e gently, in the manner of an aquatic environment (left).

Back to Veterinary Medicine News home page | Index of Previous Issues