It has been months since my last blog and I surely owe a number of articles. I have yet to update my ‘blogger information’ and thought that perhaps this is the best way to do it.
Last September, I celebrated ten years of working for conservation. It does not seem like such a long time, and indeed I feel that there is still so much to learn, but I also feel that I have crossed a threshold. Before my ten years were up, I felt a need to venture out onto a more challenging realm: higher education. By this, I mean not so much my own, but of others younger than I am. Having been accepted into the University of the Philippines College of Veterinary Medicine (UPCVM), I proceeded to try to re-educate almost half of the student population at the College. It was a big challenge, I realised, especially after announcing to the Wildlife Conservation Society of the Philippines that the UPCVM 2009 class would have graduated knowing more about Philippine biodiversity compared to their predecessors.
At the beginning of the school year, I was asked to co-ordinate the Wildlife and Laboratory Animal Medicine class. I felt that it was the opportunity I was waiting for. My methods were unconventional as they were ones I learned from my years of experience in conservation education. It was a different way of learning: holistic, participatory, playful and hopefully, one that my students will remember. We had debates on which conservation fields veterinarians could contribute best; games about animal taxonomy; interactive on-line quizzes; and a noisy obstacle race that served as the students’ third exam.
I know that we might have a long way to go and that my job takes me away from in-situ work, but I realise that we all have to make small sacrifices somehow and no one can beat the satisfaction of realising that now, my students can name more than ten animals that are endemic to the country. (At the beginning of the school year, they only knew the Philippine eagle and the Tamaraw.)
I hope that in time, I would have contributed to improving the Filipino veterinarian’s role in our own country’s conservation. For now, it makes me happy to know that a number of my students are interested in knowing how to treat illnesses of Philippine sailfin lizards, finding out what parasites infect Philippine forest turtles and determining baseline blood values of Visayan tarictic hornbills. These are tiny steps, yes, but paces that will serve as bases for a bigger niche for Filipino veterinarians in conservation.