Marcela Uhart shares her adventures as a wildlife field veterinarian in Patagonia, Argentina. She reveals to “The WildLife” host Laurel Neme the difficulties of handling and monitoring the health of diverse wildlife populations, from elephant seals and southern right whales to penguins and other seabirds. For instance, how do you immobilize a 1-2 ton animal? If you haven’t been to Patagonia, you’ll want to visit this rugged wilderness that stretches from the granite peaks of the Andes mountains to the desolate Atlantic coast. There, southern right whales gather to breed, a sizable southern elephant seal colony makes its home, and the world’s largest Magellanic penguin colony lives.
Born and raised on a ranch in the Argentine pampas, Marcela Uhart has been a veterinarian with the Wildlife Conservation Society‘s (WCS) Field Veterinary Program since 1996. She spends much of her time in the field and often collaborates with numerous non-governmental organizations and researchers in Argentina while providing veterinary expertise in wildlife handling and immobilizations, translocations and health monitoring of wildlife populations. She has worked on a variety of species, including sea lions, elephant seals, penguins, small carnivores, caiman and raptors, as well as “agricultural-conflictive” species such as rheas, large rodents and large ungulates, including guanaco and pampas deer. Marcela has helped to introduce new policy measures to benefit wildlife, such as the establishment of a program to control agricultural pesticide use, implemented with the support and endorsement of an Argentine government research agency known as INTA. Marcela also acts as a consultant to field researchers and local conservation groups and has traveled to Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador and other Latin American countries to provide her services. In November 1998, she became one of the founding members of the first Association of Latin American Wildlife Veterinarians. She is also the IUCN’s Wildlife Health Specialist Group (WHSG) coordinator for South America. In this role she hopes to reinforce and revitalize the relationship between wildlife specialists from the developed and developing nations. In fact, since she started at WCS, Marcela has worked tirelessly to address the critical shortage of training opportunities for young veterinarians in Latin America. Professional outreach remains a major focus of her work, as does collaborating with local universities and leading workshops in several Latin American countries. This episode of “The WildLife” aired on The Radiator, WOMM-LP, 105.9 FM in Burlington, Vermont on February 7, 2010.