Wildlife Information Network (WIN)
WIN was a charity, registered in the UK and the US, which has now become part of Twycross Zoo - East Midland Zoological Society. Through Wildpro, WIN has provided a one-stop resource for information on the health, husbandry, diagnosis and treatment of wildlife and the control of emerging infectious diseases in free-ranging wildlife populations.
Why WIN and Wildpro®?
WIN was founded in 1992 by Suzanne Boardman, who was a vet at London Zoo. Susie recognised the urgent need to disseminate clear, reliable, practical veterinary information to colleagues working at zoos, wildlife sanctuaries, animal health clinics, field stations and rehabilitation centres around the world.
Susie was shocked by the number of queries that poured into her office - from simple questions on drug dosage to complex issues of disease identification. Yet even with the full resources of The Zoological Society of London at her fingertips, Susie discovered how difficult it was to find wildlife health information fast, when a vet is faced with an illness in a wild population or an injured animal.
Veterinary medicine is an old science, but its application to wildlife is relatively recent. Few veterinary colleges teach wildlife medicine. New research, diagnoses, management methods and treatments are constantly emerging from biologists in the field and zoos, but wildlife health protocols and guidelines are often difficult to find or obtain. Some information is released in specialist journals or at conferences; other information is shared anecdotally between a few veterinary colleagues.
Yet untrained field biologists, vets, veterinary nurses and other animal carers diagnose and treat ill and injured wildlife, sometimes with no reliable information to hand.
WIN was established to gather wildlife health and management information from diverse and fragmented sources in order to make it quickly available to professionals fighting to conserve healthy wild animal populations. WIN is the only organisation in the world that provides this service. At first, the WIN team distributed their wide-ranging information through printed bulletins mailed around the world. As the use of the internet flourished, WIN created a unique system, Wildpro® Multimedia, to offer easy-to-use information volumes through its website.
Where we came from
At the same time that WIN founder and then-Scientific Director Suzanne Boardman became aware of the critical lack of wildlife health information, her American colleague, Dr Joshua Dein of the USGS-National Wildlife Health Center was encountering the same frustrations while supporting vets working on a project in India. Together, Susie and Josh developed a unique software system: the Wildpro® Electronic Encyclopaedia and Library for wildlife. The Wildpro® multimedia system enables WIN members to access extraordinary amounts of information in a seamless, fast, user-friendly fashion.
The initial development of Wildpro® was made possible by a grant from the British government's Overseas Development Administration (ODA). The result, in 1996, was a demonstrator module on the care and management of tigers. Issued on four floppy discs and tested by over three hundred wildlife professionals from sixty-two countries, the tiger module became the basis for the internet programme now accessed by WIN members.
What we do and for whom we're doing it
WIN (now part of Twycross Zoo) is staffed by wildlife veterinarians who have wide-ranging experience in disease diagnosis and treatment, and in providing long-term care for wild animals, whether ranging free in their natural environment or living in captivity.
WIN vets are also talented researchers and writers. They investigate related scientific disciplines, such as natural history, husbandry and human medicine. They work with veterinary, wildlife and medical peers to identify best practice before they release new information. WIN volumes are all fully referenced to the source information and are peer-reviewed. Large amounts of natural history are included in the wildlife volumes and illustrate the relationships between species, disease and the environment. WIN staff ensure that users not only get immediate answers, but also an understanding of the long-term implications of the problem.
Today, policy-makers, field biologists, zoo managers and wildlife rehabilitation staff navigate easily through 'decision flowcharts' created by WIN in order to support their diagnostic process and find recommended protocols. Wildpro® can be accessed directly from acute-care veterinary facilities and field research stations, when every minute counts to save an animal's life or to prevent a large scale disaster.
Even more valuable to the future of wildlife medicine, Wildpro® is increasingly used as a teaching tool by veterinary universities and colleges worldwide. For example, the University of California at Davis, one of America's most prestigious veterinary training institutions, has distributed animal health case studies through WIN.
Each WIN volume is also available on CD-ROM for use off-line - for example in the field.