Creating change with research

The world is currently facing a "Pangolin Crisis".

The African white-bellied tree pangolin (Phataginus tricuspis) exploitation for bushmeat and traditional medicine has caused 97% reduction in the wild population. The drastic decline is affecting wild population demographics because larger, potentially older animals, are hunted and removed from the wild. But, the full extent of this change cannot be determined because there are no criteria to determine the age for African tree pangolin. Without the ability to determine the age for pangolin, we also cannot provide appropriate care for individuals that have been rescued from the wild or confiscated.

Veterinarians are uniquely positioned to develop guidelines to estimate pangolin age by using diagnostic tools routinely used in veterinary medicine. In this granted study, we propose new research to understand the growth and development of the African tree pangolin by using health data including radiographs (x-ray imaging) and laboratory diagnostics (blood work) combined with fecal hormone (thyroid function) and body size assessments. We will combine these methods to distinguish juvenile from the adult life stage and develop a guideline for age estimates for all pangolin of this species.

The overall goal is to develop diagnostic tools to characterize the African tree pangolin growth and development and to identify implications for species conservation and health assessments.


To See Prior Years Studies

This link will take you to the website to view the prior year's research projects. 

Continuing to search for knowledge will stop extinction in its tracks.

Below you will find the 2019 approved and funded projects of the Wild Animal Health Fund.

Investigating the genomic diversity of Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, a fungal pathogen infecting free-ranging and managed snake populations

P.I.: Matthew Allender, DVM, Dipl. ACZM

Co-P.I.: Ellen Haynes, DVM, PhD

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Characterization of Fungal Conidial Adherence to Extracellular Matrix Components and Its Association with Fungal Secreted Proteases in Bat White-nose Syndrome

P.I. Michael Kevin Keel, DVM, PhD, DACVP

Co-P.I. Piyaporn Eiamcharoen, DVM

University of California Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine

Assessing the health of the critically endangered Eastern Santa Cruz Galapagos tortoise (Chelonoidis donfaustoi)

P.I.: Sharon L. Deem, DVM, PhD, DACZM

Co-P.I.: Ainoa Nieto Claudin, DVM, PhD; Kathleen Apakupakul, MS, MA.

Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; Animal Health Investigation Dept., Madrid, Spain

Pharmacokinetics of trazodonein the domestic goat (Capra hircus) as a model for wild ruminants

P.I.: Marion Desmarchelier, DVM, Dipl. ACZM, dipl. ECZM

Co-P.I.: Francis Beaudry, PhD

University of Montreal; Granby Zoo, QC

Comparison of fatty acid profiles and adipokine levels between a wild population and a captive population of critically endangered Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis)

P.I.: Jessica Aymen, DVM, IPSAV; DVSc

Co-P.I.: Pauline Delnatte, DVM, IPSAV, DVSc, Dipl. ACZM, Dipl. ECZM

Toronto Zoo; University of Guelph; Tony Barrett Mt Washington Breeding Ctr.; Calgary Zoo; Marmot Recovery Foundation, BC, Canada

Investigating an alternative to ultra-potent opioid combinations for anesthesia of Przewalski’s horses using butorphanol-azaparone-medetomidine-ketamine

P.I.: Ellie Milnes, MA, VetMB, DVSc

Co-P.I.: Christopher Dutton BSc, BVSc, MSc, DipACZM, DipECZM (ZHM)

Toronto Zoo, Ontario, Canada


Pharmacokinetics of a Single Oral Dose of Phenylbutazone in Southern White Rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum simum)

P.I.: Emma Houck, DVM

Co-P.I.: Katie Delk, DVM, DACZM; Mark Papich DVM, Dipl ACVCP

North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, North Carolina Zoo


Nutritional Evaluation of Native Plants of Papua New Guinea Consumed by Matschie’s Tree Kangaroo (Dendrolagus matschiei)

P.I.: Ellen Dierenfeld, PhD

Co-P.I.: Marisa Bezjian, DVM; Lisa Dabek, PhD

Papua New Guinea; Zooquarius, NY; Washington State University, WA


Rapid mycobacterial DNA detection and the enhanced growth of tuberculosis from African rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis, Ceratotherium simum) bronchioalveolar lavage and tissue samples

P.I.: Wynand J. Goosen, PhD

Co-P.I.: Michele Miller, DVM, Dipl ECZM, PhD

University of Stellenbosch, So. Africa


Holistic Evaluation of Leatherback Health Including Nesting Females, Nests, Embryos, and Dead in Nest Hatchlings in St. Croix, USVI

P.I.: Kimberly M. Stewart, DVM, PhD

Co-P.I.: Michelle Dennis, DVM, PhD, Dipl ACVP

St. Croix, US Virgin Islands; Ross University, University of Miami, FL; Mystic Aquarium, CT; University of Penn, PA


Investigation into the physiological response of flapper skate (Dipturus intermedius) to capture and surgical implantation of acoustic tags in Scotland

P.I.: Georgina Cole, BVetMed MSc MRCVS

Co-P.I.: Simon Girling, BVMS, Dipl ECZM, FRCVS

Edinburgh Zoo, UK


Comprehensive Health Assessment Including Multi-Pathogen Surveillance in a Population of the Federally Threatened Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus)

P.I.: Laura Adamovicz, DVM, PhD

Co-P.I.: Matthew C. Allender, DVM, MS, PhD, Dipl. ACZM

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


Influence of herd size and animal transfers in shedding frequency of elephant endotheliotropic herpesvirus in Asian elephants (Elephas maximus)

P.I.: Jennifer D’Agostino, DVM, Dipl. ACZM

Co-P.I.: Erin Latimer, MS

Oklahoma City Zoo and Botanical Garden


Prevalence and magnitude of plastic ingestion (macro, meso and microplastics) and exposure to plasticizers (phthalates) in seabirds in southeast Brazil

P.I.: Ralph E. T. Vanstreels, DVM, PhD

Co-P.I.: Luciana Gallo, PhD

Instituto de Pesquisa e Reabilitação de Animais Marinhos


Click Donate to support more discoveries!

How do you treat a spiny sea urchin?

Very carefully according to zoo and wildlife veterinarians! And the treatment has less to do with our safety than theirs!

Pharmacokinetics is the study of how the body processes drugs. Having this knowledge makes it possible to provide the best treatment for animals. For many important species, we have little or no information to go on. Hence, this is especially true for sea urchins.

Sea urchins are vital to the ocean's ecosystem. They provide food for predators and regulate algae and kelp forest growth. When large numbers of sea urchins die at once, it is called a mass mortality event. These events result from disease-causing organisms in their habitat. The sea urchins can develop opportunistic infections, which leads to the die off. The whole ecosystem suffers. So, having a reliable treatment for these diseases is a pressing need.

But how do veterinarians know the right drugs, dosages, and treatment protocols to use? Pharmacokinetic research provides the answers and the knowledge they require. In this 2015 project, a specific dosage was determined to prove effective in antimicrobial treatments for the sea urchins with respect to species-specific pathogens.  It is with your support of the Wild Animal Health Fund that we can work together to solve this prickly problem.

Animals can't ask for help. That's why we're here.

The Wild Animal Health Fund advocates for the injured, sick and dying animals all around the world. With your help, we can make a difference.