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Are the animals okay?

I have been asking myself this question for as long as I can remember. It's the reason I became a veterinarian. It's the central theme behind my writing and teaching. It's why I work in conservation.

I will happily stand for hours waiting for a giant otter to swim into a pond and start fishing or for a mountain gorilla to wake up from a nap and start grooming. I love taking my Labrador retriever swimming, day after day. One of my favorite things to do is watch a perfectly healthy creature go about its routine.

Unfortunately, countless animals are not okay. Dozens of species are on the brink of extinction. Others have been squeezed into smaller, fragmented, altered habitats. This is a problem we need to solve — and soon. The reason is simple: humans are animals, too.

We have also dramatically changed the nature of our relationship with animals. We live in much closer quarters, for one thing. More than ever, our health is affected by their health, and vice versa. This is the bad news. The good news is that if health problems are linked, so are the solutions. The next step is to better understand the many connections between human, animal and environmental health.

It will take all of us to ensure the animals, including humans, are okay. I hope you will find inspiration here to participate any way you can.

National Geographic Animal Encyclopedia
Last year I had the honor of writing an animal encyclopedia for National Geographic! The book was published in October (2012) and is now widely available. It's full of animal facts and gorgeous photographs — 1,000 of them. Also included are interviews with scientists in the field and plenty of colorful graphics >>
Blog Saving Otters by Lucy Spelman
Otters remind me, in some ways, of dogs. In other ways, they're cat-like. There’s something very endearing about these athletic, powerful, and playful animals. They can be tamed, but only to a point. Ultimately, water is their home. The more I’ve worked with otters, the more my interest has grown, not only in these amazing animals, but also in their environment, and in their interactions with people. >>
Before qualifying for a job in this field, veterinarians study for years. Most of us spend at least a year and sometimes as many as five training in zoological medicine (abbreviated zoo med). And that's after four years of college and four years of veterinary school. For those who'd like to join our profession, here's an outline of the steps involved and some advice. >>
Lucy published her first work of creative non-fiction, a short story called "The Rhino with Glue-on Shoes" in 2008. The short story appears in a book of the same name, a collection of 28 stories by zoo vets about their patients, which she co-edited with Dr. Ted Mashima. Rhino has since been published in paperback, several other languages and in the UK under a new title, Hippo with Toothache. >>