It has almost been two months since I started my new semester 9,500 miles away from Syracuse University and 4,400 miles away from my home country, Japan. In Queensland, Australia, where a constellation of exotic animals you would not find anywhere else reside, I work in the University of Queensland (UQ VETS) Small Animal Hospital on Gatton campus as an extern while taking classes as a full-time student on St. Lucia campus. I specifically work with avian and exotics at the hospital, encountering various native species every week. As a pre-veterinary student, I have a lot of experience working with small companion mammals and equines in Japan and the U.S. However, until I came to this country, I had never given injectable antibiotics to an eastern bearded dragon, helped place a gastronomy tube into a sand monitor (Figure 1), taken care of a lost baby common brushtail possum (Figure 2), or observed an entropion surgery on a joey (i.e., an Australian slang for a baby kangaroo! Figure 3).
While I am not able to participate in the Penguin Project at the time, I am keeping myself busy working with different avian species, such as the scarlet macaw and the lorikeet, that come into the hospital for a variety of medical conditions. I have also had an opportunity to tag along with Dr. Bob Doneley, one of a few avian specialists in Queensland and also an assitant professor of School of Veterinary Science, to join a lab practical for the third year veterinary students at UQ. At the practical, I was able to learn about the treatment and the handling of small avian species as well as reptiles and exotic mammals, letting me experience an authentic taste of what it is like to be a vet student. I am also slowly learning each species’ unique, distinct sounds and behavioral traits as well as the anatomical and physiological differences among the species. I cannot wait to apply the knowledge and experience I gain here in Australia to the Humboldt penguin project back in Syracuse even if only slightly.