Promising treatment of avipoxvirus infections

Here is an interesting paper for those of you dealing with avian patients.  The study was presented at the 2011 Conference of the European Association of Avian Veterinarians.

*   *   *   *   *

A clinical trial of 162 captive birds of prey with poxvirus took place between 2008 and 2010. The Poxvirus infection was diagnosed by histopathology and PCR procedure. Booster Concentrate® was administered orally in the food daily for 30-65 days. All the birds recovered from the infection uneventfully within 15-65. Clinical followup a year later shows new poxvirus cases continue to respond to Booster Concentrate.


*   *   *   *   *

The following is adapted from:

 “Medical Treatment of Avipoxvirus Infections in Birds of Prey”

M. García Montijano*, LV, J. García de la Fuente,** LV, I. Luaces,*** LV,

B. Palomares,* LV

*      Hospital de Rapaces Altai, Torrelaguna, Madrid, Spain

**   2 Roc Falcon S.L., Lleida, Spain

*** Gir diagnostics S.L.P.

Poxviruses are double-stranded DNA enveloped viruses that infect a wide spectrum of animals. Poxvirus infections in birds are caused by a large avipoxvirus. This infection (mostly dry form) is seen more frequently and considered common in falconry birds in Europe and Middle East. Until now most of the treatment options were surgical. Most birds died or were so disfigured they were euthanized.

One hundred sixty-two captive birds of prey of 10 species and their hybrids were included in this clinical trial, which took place between 2008 and 2010 in Spain. Birds were presented to a private raptor hospital or were captive bred at a large commercial breeding center. Booster Concentrate® was administered orally in the food daily for 30 days in 148 birds and to a maximum of 65 days to the rest. Blood was obtained from these birds and processed and tested according to a protocol, before and after the treatment. Poxvirus infection was diagnosed by histopathology and PCR procedure.


All the birds recovered from the infection uneventfully. Most of the small lesions disappeared within 15 days, and from 30 to 65 days were needed for the more complicated diphtheritic and cutaneous clinical cases.


The antiviral action attributed to Booster Concentrate® results from its ability to fluidize the lipids and phospholipids in the envelope of the virus, causing the disintegration of the microbial membrane. Booster Concentrate® also interferes with virus assembly and viral maturation (HORNUNG et al. 1994).

Clinical followup a year later in these facilities shows the product is still successful, as new poxvirus cases continue to respond to Booster Concentrate®.


Click here to download the full manuscript.


Desert Habitats

By Karen Tannenbaum


These last few working days I learned more about the Common Tortoise breeding/rehabilitation program, one of the Hai Bar’s most successful projects. My responsibilities now include maintaining enclosures for the youngest tortoises on the reserve, one of the red foxes, raptors in recovery cages, a few recovering small mammals, the nightjars, and (of course) the fruit bats. I worked on setting up a new, larger enclosure for the nightjars as well as a new enclosure for recovering raptors. I was allowed complete creative license to arrange the cages and fit them with new branches that I hunted for in the surrounding desert area. For the nightjars, I found larger, flat branches to allow them to sit naturally alongside the branch rather than across it (typical for nightjars).  A major consideration when working in the desert is temperature control. In heat that reaches 120 degrees it’s imperative to think of ways to keep enclosures cool.  To alleviate these concerns, I shielded the cages in layers of light, breathable cloth and included hollowed out rocks for shade.

Also, I found some more bat babies this week! It’s been so delightful watching the babies begin to leave their mothers and start flying on their own. Too cute.


A Nubian nightjar (Caprimulgus nubicus) perched in the old habitat.
A Nubian nightjar (Caprimulgus nubicus) perched in the old habitat. Photo Credit: Karen Tannenbaum


I was invited to a staff BBQ tonight and afterward I was given the opportunity to observe and assist during the night feeding for the predators at the Hai Bar.  Upon entering a fox cage, I noticed a rather large creature scurrying across the sand in front of me. Upon further investigation, I discovered that this creature was actually a gigantic, frightening camel spider. Not going to lie, until this point I was pretty sure that these animals were a total myth. False. They definitely exist, and this one definitely petrified me.  Eek!



Today, a Dag lizard was released. While I did not have the opportunity to join in on the release, I did have the pleasure of assisting in maintaining the prehistoric-looking lizard’s enclosure for his stay up until his release.  This is what I love about working in wildlife rehabilitation. While it can be poignant to not see an animal that you become used to caring for each shift, it is rewarding to know that they are returned their rightful place in the wild.  Good luck, lizard!

Dag lizard
Dag Lizard (Uromastyx ornata ornata) Photo credit: Karen Tannenbaum



Today, two pelicans were brought to the reserve for rehabilitation. Pelicans! Finally, an animal I’m used to working with.  A Great White Pelican was the first to arrive, followed soon after by a Pink-backed Pelican. The managers at the Hai Bar were aware that I regularly volunteer at the Wetland and Wildlife Care Center, and as such invited me to a private meeting to discuss the pelican habitat. I explained the WWCC’s “peli-pen” set-up and the managers gave me a leading role in setting up the pelican enclosure and allowed me to spend my day observing and reporting the birds’ behavior and food intake.  My most pressing concern was keeping them misted to avoid overheating in treacherously hot weather and making sure they have fresh, cool water. Additionally, I was invited to accompany the director of the Hai Bar on the drive to Tel Aviv to transfer the pelicans to an animal hospital.  While I felt honored to be trusted with care of the pelicans, I also became especially homesick for the WWCC!

Now I get to spend a few days enjoying Tel Aviv before heading back to the desert.  :)

Young tortoise eating greens.
Negev Tortoise (Testudo werneri)Photo Credit: Karen Tannenbaum


It’s Time to Get the Lead Out for Wildlife

Guest Blog Post from Jeff Miller, Center for Biological Diversity

California condor perching in a flight cage.
A California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) in rehab for lead poisoning at Liberty Wildlife Center in AZ. Contacts for picture and Photo Credit Randie Segal

Have you ever held an eagle or loon that’s been poisoned by lead? It’s heart-breaking to see these majestic birds wracked by toxins that sicken and often kill.

Veterinarians and wildlife rehab centers have been on the front lines for years coping with countless wildlife lead poisoning cases around the country. It’s a needless epidemic: millions of birds are poisoned every year by eating spent lead shot, fragments of lead hunting ammunition or fishing tackle left in the wild. (Lead also endangers the health of people who eat game meat that contains flecks of lead.)

At some point, the use of toxic lead in sporting products has to end.

Fortunately, there’s a solution within reach. There are now plenty of nontoxic, lead-free types of ammunition and fishing tackle on the market that are accessible, affordable and effective. Hunters can still hunt, anglers can still fish and the unintended killing of eagles, loons, California condors, trumpeter swans and other wildlife can stop.

But, in order to make the change on a large scale, we need the same sort of federal effort that got lead out of gasoline, paint and plumbing. Wildlife rehabilitators will play an important role in making that happen.

As leading experts on wildlife in their communities – and the people most likely to deal directly with animals poisoned by lead – rehabilitators can be a powerful voice in pushing for lead-free ammunition and tackle. This doesn’t require becoming a political activist, simply talking publicly about what you’ve experienced first-hand: eagles you’ve nursed back to health, loons you’ve seen succumb to poisoning, or deaths and injuries of animals that could have been prevented.

Providing good information about how lead poisoning is affecting local wildlife is a vital part of bringing about changes in national policies. Each small step – whether it’s a scientific report or a letter to the editor – moves us in the right direction.

Spent lead ammunition in terrestrial habitats continues to poison some 130 species of birds and non-target animals each year. Wildlife hospitals across the country see a dramatic rise in lead-poisoned eagles and other raptors during hunting season each fall. Nearly 500 scientific papers have been published documenting the dangers to wildlife from this lead exposure. It’s clear that change is needed.

Here’s where things stand: a 38-state coalition representing conservationists, birders, hunters, zoologists, scientists, American Indians, wildlife rehabilitators and veterinarians petitioned the EPA earlier this year for a public process under the Toxic Substances Control Act to consider regulations for nontoxic hunting ammunition. The EPA has twice refused to evaluate the risks to wildlife and human health from toxic lead in hunting ammunition. Conservation groups this month filed suit against the EPA.

The Toxic Substances Control Act, the federal law designed to limit exposure to dangerous chemicals such as lead, gives the EPA broad authority to regulate chemical substances that present an unreasonable risk of injury to health or the environment. The EPA could end the unintended lead poisoning of wildlife by regulating the toxic lead bullets and shot in ammunition.

The EPA dodging the lead issue has a lot to do with posturing and lobbying by the National Rifle Association and other politically powerful gun groups, which make the misleading argument that regulating lead is a backdoor method to ban guns. The NRA is pushing the “Sportsmen’s Heritage Act,” aimed at removing the EPA’s authority to regulate toxic lead in ammunition and fishing equipment.

We knew this would be a slow, difficult fight. That’s why we need help from wildlife rehabilitators and others who regularly deal with the tragic effects of lead poisoning. You can help by informing the public what you know about the impacts of lead on wildlife, bringing the problem up in talks you give, talking to local news reporters and even writing an op-ed for your newspaper.

There’s something else that’s needed: better tracking of wildlife injured or killed by lead poisoning. Currently there’s no cohesive way to track the scope of lead poisonings state-by-state or at the national level. Scientifically sound updated data will be an important tool in showing the depth of this problem.

I’ll hope you’ll join the effort to finally get the lead out of the wild.

Get more information about the Get the Lead Out campaign.

Bye Bye Buzzard

By Karen Tannenbaum

Karen is a California rehabilitator who usually volunteers at the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center in the US but is spending the summer as a volunteer at an Israeli wildlife rehabilitation and education center, Hai Bar Yotvata.  Since IWRC currently has no Israeli members (hopefully we will soon) I thought the membership would be interested in the current state of rehabilitation in the country.  Regardless of where we are, we always regard our animals and practices as normal, be that kangaroos and possums, raccoons and redtails, or pandas and cincerous vultures.  By sharing each others "normal" we learn things that benefit us all.


Today, a Common buzzard was approved for release.  Visitors at the educational exhibits were invited to view the release, and I found it endearing to witness the crowd’s excitement as the graceful raptor raced through the air. I tried my best to snap a picture, but my humble little camera coupled with the astounding speed of the buzzard made for a barely discernible photograph. My bad.

Before the raptor release (highlight of my day) we took a Jeep onto the reserve to visit the watering holes for a routine scrubbing.  Some extra curious ostriches surrounded us and Abby and I were swiftly instructed to get back into the car.  Ostrich bites are apparently not too pleasant. Thankfully, I have yet to find that out for myself.


Release of the buzzard



Unfortunately, a juvenile Scimitar oryx passed away this week. The on-site vet came to the reserve to perform an autopsy, which I was able to observe. Dr. Reuven (Richard) Eden, DVM, MPVM is a UC Davis graduate who made Aliyah and has been working in town for 22 years. Dr. Eden had determined that the oryx died from an infected small intestine.  After the autopsy, I accompanied Arik, Eitan, and Yaniv to Eilat to drop off a sample of the intestine to a lab for further research. Even though the circumstances were upsetting, I was ecstatic to witness the autopsy and have the chance to ask questions on animal biology and surgical process. It was a priceless opportunity.

On a brighter note, I discovered a new baby in the bat cave! Very exciting. Mama bat is gloriously protective and kept a close eye on me when I came in to clean the enclosure this morning.


I got to feed the Nightjars today, and they are officially in the running for my new favorite animal at the Hai Bar (my favorites change biweekly…I can’t help it!).  For the first time, I cheerfully held a bug (the Nightjars’ snack of choice) for the opportunity to feed the birds. Worth it!

Erik took us on a little trip through the reserve to look for nesting ostriches. After about 20 minutes of driving through the terrain, we found a beautiful female lying on a nest filled with eggs. One ostrich caught notice of the truck and ran after us for at least half a mile! I felt like I was in Jurassic Park. I never thought I’d be involved in a race with an ostrich, but there’s a first time for everything, right?

An American in Israel


By Karen Tannenbaum

Karen is a California rehabilitator who usually volunteers at the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center in the US but is spending the summer as a volunteer at an Israeli wildlife rehabilitation and education center, Hai Bar Yotvata.  Since IWRC currently has no Israeli members (hopefully we will soon) I thought the membership would be interested in the current state of rehabilitation in the country.  Regardless of where we are, we always regard our animals and practices as normal, be that kangaroos and possums, raccoons and redtails, or pandas and cincerous vultures.  By sharing each others "normal" we learn things that benefit us all.

Arrival Day 2/22

After a four-hour bus ride from Jerusalem, Abby (another American volunteer) and I were dropped off at an extremely desolate bus stop near Kibbutz Grofit-our home for the next few months. We called the Hai Bar Yotvata staff coordinator (Zohar) who had arranged to retrieve us from the bus stop upon our arrival. About 15 minutes later, we were startled by a fast approaching green truck veiled in sand. Out jumped three Hai Bar staff members who loaded our suitcases into the back of the truck and welcomed us to town. We were overwhelmed, but so thrilled.  Zohar explained work conditions and our shift times and we were left to explore our apartment and the kibbutz. The other staff members, Eitan (21), Ido (21) and Yaniv (18) invited the two of us to a BBQ outside their apartment. We all spent time getting to know each other (while eating a DELICIOUS dinner) then went to sleep early in order to prepare for our first day volunteering.


Today was our first day on the reserve.  I met the director of the reserve and the rest of the exceedingly hard working staff members. I was sent to work with Eitan who told me a little bit about Hai Bar and put me to work cleaning and feeding the Egyptian Fruit bats, porcupines, Terrestrial tortoises, and Fat Sand rats. Besides rehabilitation, Hai Bar is an educational center working towards furthering people’s knowledge of native Israeli wildlife. I was amazed by the variety of species they house at the reserve, including cheetahs, leopards, wolves, jackals, ostriches, and hyrax, just to name a few. After a few hours of work, I was told that I would be taking care of the Egyptian Fruit bats for the duration of my time there.  Exciting!! The animals currently being rehabilitated include an assortment of reptiles and raptors, and Hai Bar is home to an incredible Oryx habitat that is part of a larger Oryx rehabilitation project.



Today was really exciting. I got to do a ride along with some staff members to tag a newborn Oryx. Erik, one of the lead staff members, explained the ear tagging patterns that they use to keep record of the Oryx population in the reserve. Tick marks on different locations along the edge of the ear represent different numbers. We drove into the reserve to search for the baby, and once we had found it and brought it to the truck to get tagged I was staggered by how small she was! Her anxious parents surrounded the car and Erik worked as quickly as possible to get the baby back out to her mother.  Afterwards, we corralled a group of Addax from an enclosure out onto the reserve. All in all, today was a day filled with unforgettable first-time experiences.


Today was my day off, but I was too excited to just hang out on the Kibbutz. I went to work at 5:30 AM and took to my post as the Egyptian Fruit bat caretaker. I relished the responsibility. After the bats’ first feeding I shadowed Eitan as he took me around the carnivore enclosure to clean and check on the animals. When we were done I was instructed to observe/practice carnivore food prep...which meant I had to help dismember the dead feeder calf. I had never done anything like that until today. At least these animals get incredibly fresh food, right? :)

Bringing Science and Collaboration into Wildlife Health Management

National Wildlife Health Center Strategic Science Plan

By Kristin Madden, IWRC instructor and Chair of The Wildlife Society’s Wildlife Disease Working Group subcommittee to review the NWHC Plan


In February 2012, a subcommittee of The Wildlife Society’s Wildlife Disease Working Group was formed to review and comment on the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center's (NWHC) “Science Strategy: Advancing Wildlife and Ecosystem Health for the Next Decade.” The NWHC Strategic Science Plan is a broad document with three major goals: developing local, regional and international partnerships; creating information support systems; and identifying wildlife health threats. Each of these is a vital goal is we are to effectively address pressing wildlife health issues as they arise. The North American Wildlife Health Strategy will emphasize a collaborative approach to mitigate the impact of wildlife disease on wildlife populations, domestic animals, and human health, as well as economic and social effects.


Our subcommittee was comprised of individuals from academia, state and federal agencies, and NGO conservation organizations. We felt that the plan was clear and concise, offering a broad framework that will help guide NWHC work activities over the course of the next few years.  The subcommittee offered four pages of commentary to The Wildlife Society. Among a wide variety of comments, we recommended linking this document to other disease related planning documents, including the North American Rabies Management Plan that was signed in 2008 by representatives from U.S., Mexico, Canada and the Navajo Nation. We also noted that partnerships address the potential negative impact of translocation of wildlife. Translocation is commonly used for a variety of reasons and has tremendous potential to impact the spread of wildlife disease.  We found the plans for ways to disseminate vital information to be particularly important for both professionals and the public. We also suggested increasing visibility by investing more in publications like the Field Guide to Wildlife Diseases.


Overall, this is an ambitious project that has great potential for education, collaboration, and efficient mitigation, even if only a portion of the specific objectives are accomplished. I look forward to the new research that will be sparked by this and the information and training that I hope wildlife rehabilitators will have access to.

Up For Discussion – Nonnative Species


Virginia Opossum (Didelphis virginiana) is non-native in British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California. Photo Credit L Reed

Up For Discussion

The upcoming issue of JWR will feature a Letter to the Editor questioning the ethics of treating and releasing non-native, invasive species. In this particular case, the species in question is Virginia opossums in California (introduced in 1910, according to Jameson & Peeters (California Mammals, University of California Press, 1988)). But rehabilitators across the U.S. are familiar with the dilemma of caring for European starlings and English (house) sparrows. And this concern is not limited to North America. In Australia the problem may be European rabbits, red foxes, and cane toads. Africa’s invasive species include the crab-eating macaque, grey squirrels, and Canada geese; the grey squirrel has also been introduced to central Europe, along with California quail and the bullfrog.  Add to the list beaver in South America, raccoons and nutria in Asia.

Rock Pigeon (Columba livia) Photo Credit Bob Elko

Some rehabilitators believe that when an invasive species arrives for treatment the most humane and ethical protocol for all parties is to euthanize the animal. They may point out that rehabilitators have enough trouble garnering respect from the more established wildlife professions without engaging in activities that undermine efforts to support native wildlife populations. Others argue even an exotic species offers an opportunity to educate the public—about empathy AND environmental issues. Then there is the very practical concern over possible bad PR for a rehabilitation organization that depends on donations to operate getting “caught” euthanizing some of its patients simply because they are not deemed “worthy” of care.

Obviously, this is an enormous issue that needs to be faced and discussed by the wildlife rehabilitation community.

What are your thoughts on this matter?

What is the most important issue for rehabilitators to address—the health of the individual, the health of the population, or the health of the ecosystem?

Do you (if home-based) or your organization (if affiliated with a rehab center) have an established protocol for dealing with non-native wildlife species?

If so, what is it, and how did you come to this decision?

If not, why not?

Submit your responses to Kieran Lindsay, JWR Editor at

Attending the 11th International Effects of Oil on Wildlife Conference

By Susan Wylie, IWRC Board Member

Last month I attended the 11th International Effects of Oil on Wildlife conference in New Orleans, Louisiana. This conference was attended by a variety of professionals including government agencies, wildlife rehabilitators, veterinarians, biologists, researchers and oil response companies.

With oil spills occurring more frequently around the globe, I attended this symposium to acquire a better understanding of what is required to respond to oil spills and to determine what I could do to help with a response effort . Sadly, oil spills happen every day and it is likely that as a rehabilitator, I will participate in this type of response at some point.

The conference not only addressed topics such as the steps and protocols needed to respond to oil spills, but many presenters spoke of the current research that is being done to see the physical effects oil is having on wildlife and the surrounding environment. Presentations were also given on how to organize and manage volunteers during a crisis, and the planning and decision making needed to deploying an emergency response centre.

It caught my attention that responders are focusing their efforts more and more on animal welfare and the psychological effects response efforts have on animals. Responders are learning that these factors play a large role in the survival rate of oiled wildlife. Speakers emphasized the importance housing, enrichment and diet play in reducing the animal’s stress and increasing its chance of surviving in the wild. Examples and descriptions were given so that the participants could apply the knowledge to their own centres in emergency and non-emergency situations.

Networking and attending these types of events is crucial to preparing for the unprepared.The conference allowed both experienced and inexperienced individuals to share ideas and to discuss methods of response to small and large-scale oil spills and other emergency situations.  Oil spill responders from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, United States, Canada and as far as Singapore networked together with the ultimate goal of saving wildlife in distress as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Mega-Agriculture and Wildlife Health

At the 2011 IWRC Symposium the Keynote Speaker was Dr Greg Harrison.  He gave a fabulous talk about mega-agriculture and its far reaching effects, yes, even into wildlife rehabilitation. We are pleased to provide a full copy of his speech here! I highly recommend listening to the full hour below, but you can also access a short 5 minute introduction at the Harrison's Pet Food YouTube Page.



Home by the Holidays

Update January 10 2012: The puffin has been released in the Grand Banks region near other puffins.

A rehab center just outside of Montreal has been in the news recently, due to an unusual visitor, an immature Atlantic puffin a long way from home.

Sue Wylie, IWRC board member, instructor, and executive director of Le Nichoir, and her volunteers set up a habitat for the juvenille puffin in a bath tub.
The set up included a mesh pull out. A good place for the bird to get out of the water while protecting his feet. Photo: Lindsay D'Aoust
The puffin was fed a diet of smelt, a fish species that wouldn't cause problems with the bird's waterproofing. Photo: Lindsay D'Aoust
After a week of phone calls, Sue had set up a flight to Newfoundland for the puffin via AirCanada. Photo: Lindsay D'Aoust
Early December 22nd the bird was on a commercial flight, with a Newfoundland rehabilitator waiting on the other side. Photo: Lindsay D'Aoust