AAZV mulls name change, hears opposition

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Zoo veterinarians are voting whether to add "wildlife" to their organization's name.

Leaders of a wildlife veterinarian organization think such a change could hurt their organization by causing confusion.

The American Association of Zoo Veterinarians may become the "American Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians."

Dr. Robert Hilsenroth, executive director of the AAZV, said two thirds of members casting votes would need to approve the proposed change. Voting ends Sept. 21.

The roles of zoo veterinarians have expanded over the past 40 years, he said, from exclusively treating zoo animals to today incorporating wildlife conservation, which their employers need to perform to remain certified by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. A veterinarian at a zoo with orangutans, for example, may work with wild orangutans in Borneo twice a year.

The change also would align the AAZV's name with that of the European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians, as well as with the name of their joint publication: Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. Dr. Hilsenroth also noted the names of the Canadian Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians and Mexican Association of Zoo and Wild Animal Veterinarians.

Dr. Mark Drew, president of the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians, said in an Aug. 1 message to AAWV members, and in a subsequent interview with JAVMA, that members of his organization and the AAZV have different emphases and roles with wildlife. Members of government agencies without existing wildlife veterinarians, as well as members of the public, may not know which organization's members should be considered the experts on wildlife management, he said.

Dr. Hilsenroth responded that anyone can join either organization, and he thinks people will check for qualifications when hiring experts.

Dr. Drew also has heard from members of zoo and wildlife veterinary organizations in other countries that those organizations tend to be dominated by zoo and captive animal veterinarians, whereas wildlife population medicine gets little attention.

But Dr. Hilsenroth said the AAZV is not trying to displace the AAWV. He noted that the two organizations were in talks to renew an expired memorandum of understanding that has given the organizations a single voice in the AVMA House of Delegates and has established collaborative agreements on meetings and continuing education. The AAZV sends a nonvoting advisory panel member to House meetings, and that representative is approved by the AAZV and AAWV boards.

The AAZV has more than 1,000 members, and the AAWV has about 250, according to information from each. About 50 are members of both.

Dr. David Jessup, executive manager of the Wildlife Disease Association, characterized the proposal before the AAZV as a marketing effort to compete for members. Dr. Hilsenroth said the allegation is untrue and hurtful. At press time, the WDA had taken no formal position on the proposal.

Dr. Drew said the AAZV is entitled to change its name to reflect its members' work with wildlife outside zoos. But he said it could diminish a cooperative relationship, and he wants to see the organizations continue working together. Dr. Hilsenroth said the name change proposal has caused more turmoil than expected.

"We have absolutely no intention to step on the toes or take members from the American Association of Wildlife Veterinarians," he said.

Related JAVMA content:

Role of zoos is conservation, zoo veterinarians say (July 15, 2017)