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Double first for rabbit treatment

Press release issued: 21 July 2004

Bristol Zoo Gardens in partnership with Bristol University has set up a dedicated rabbit veterinary clinic at the University's new Animal Hospital at Langford.

Bristol Zoo Gardens is enjoying a double first thanks to funding by Rabbit Welfare Fund (RWF). It is the first European zoo to offer in-depth training in rabbit and zoo medicine and the first UK zoo to set up a dedicated rabbit veterinary clinic in the UK. The Zoo in partnership with Bristol University is holding the new rabbit clinic at the University’s new Animal Hospital at Langford and opens its doors on Wednesday 21 July 2004.

With 1.3 million rabbits in the UK, rabbits are now the third most popular pet, after dogs and cats, and the RWF are keen to promote excellence in their treatment. Amazingly, rabbits are still considered ‘exotic’ pets by vets and universities, along with zoo species, reptiles and birds and so training on the care of these species is limited. When the RWF approached Sharon Redrobe, Bristol Zoo Gardens’ Head of Veterinary Services and Honorary Lecturer in Zoo and Exotic Animal Medicine at Bristol University, she saw the opportunity to raise the standards for veterinary treatment of rabbits as well as for other exotic animals.

Brigitte Reusch, who graduated with distinction from the Royal Veterinary College, London University, was selected in a highly competitive process and took up the position of Bristol Zoo Garden’s Rabbit Welfare Fund Resident on 21 June 2004. As well as learning about zoo animal medicine, Brigitte, has helped set up this first dedicated rabbit clinic in the UK. She has done this with the support of Ian Sayers, one of Bristol University’s vets. The clinic will see first-opinion cases and provide a referral service for clients in the South West and South Wales. Sharon Redrobe will supervise the clinic, which will be open to Bristol University veterinary students to attend in order that they gain experience in treating rabbits. Importantly Brigitte will teach approximately 500 Bristol University vet students during her residency programme.

Sharon Redrobe, Bristol Zoo Gardens Head of Veterinary Services said: ‘The three-year residency at the Zoo will lead to a postgraduate qualification in zoological medicine and train the resident in the care of exotic species including reptiles, fish, birds, and mammals (including rabbits). This programme will help to disseminate to vets the importance of excellence in veterinary medicine of exotic pets and zoo animals. We hope the Bristol Zoo Gardens’ residency model to be the first of many such progressive programmes’.

Judith Brown, Veterinary Executive, RWF/RWA, said:‘We are delighted to be the first organisation worldwide to take this step for rabbits; this post ensures that vets training in the UK will have excellent and up-to-date information and practices for the rabbit care they will provide when qualified, putting the UK firmly on the map as world leader in this area. To have the opportunity to teach 500 students about rabbit medicine, and equip them with the necessary skills to take rabbit medicine seriously will be a terrific boost to our aims of raising the status of pet rabbits’.

The Zoo is an Education and Conservation Charity and relies on the income from visitors to support its work.  The Zoo is involved with over one hundred co-ordinated breeding programmes for threatened wildlife species. 

Bristol Zoo Gardens supports – through finance and skill sharing - over 10 projects in the UK and abroad that conserve and protect some of the world’s most endangered species.

The Rabbit Welfare Fund (RWF) is supported by the Rabbit Welfare Association (RWA), which has over 3,000 members.

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