Warning: Some portions of this interview may be a little graphic when we talk about the realities of poaching in South Africa.
P/S: Don’t be alarmed by the sounds at the start of the podcast! They’re 2 animals that Chloe works with – can you guess what they are? Listen to the end of the podcast or scroll down this post to find out. 😉
Welcome to Episode 1!
Our guest for today is Chloe Buiting – an Australian vet & wildlife conservationist who grew up in Lord Howe Island, where, in her own words:
She knew from a young age that she wanted to dedicate herself to protect wildlife and ended up going to veterinary school.
One of her more interesting placements was in South Africa, where she was involved in things like capturing giraffes, dehorning rhinos (to try to protect them from poachers) & working with wild cats.
We also talk about:
- Life as a veterinary student, including placements;
- The realities of poaching in South Africa & the big debate over what to do with the horns of the rhinoceros;
- What it’s like to capture a giraffe in the wild (hint: you need a helicopter!);
- The importance of ecotourism (including gorilla work in the DRC, Rwanda & Uganda);
- Working with amputee elephants out of the world’s first prosthetics hospital for elephants in Chiang Mai;
- Being on the frontline in the 2020 Australian Wildlife (the fire went right up to her backyard in Kangaroo Island!);
- The future of veterinary medicine (hint: 3D printing beaks for tocan is already a reality!);
- Whether you can make money as a vet; and
- What WE can do to support wildlife conservation efforts.
Did you figure out which animals made those strange sounds?
- Answer 1: Koala
- Answer 2: Lion
Let me know in the comments below if you got it right! And if you have any thoughts on this episode, feel free to leave a review here!
Here are some of the links to things we talked about:
- Jungledoctor.org – Chloe’s website, with details of where you can go for placements & apply for Chloe’s scholarship & conservation fund (funded partially by Chloe herself!)
- Chloe’s Instagram – where you can go behind-the-scenes to see what Chloe does
- Loopabroad – which helps vet students pursue placements, externships & volunteering opportunities. During the COVID-19 crisis, students can also attend their online courses! Loopabroad also has opportunities for ANYONE even if you aren’t a vet, provided you have a passion for wildlife!
- Subscribe to the STIMY Podcast for alerts on future episodes at Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher & RadioPublic
Episode 1 - Chloe Buiting, Australian Vet & Wildlife Conservationist
Ling Yah: [00:00:10] Hey everyone. Welcome to episode one of the So This Is My Why podcast.
I'm your host & producer, Ling Yah.
And you just heard, well, two very different animals. Can you guess what they are?
Both are animals that our guest for today, Chloe Buiting, works with on a pretty much daily basis. Chloe, otherwise known as jungle_ doctor on Instagram, is an Australian vet and wall of conservationists.
Now residing in Kangaroo Island, Australia. She has dedicated her life to protecting wildlife and has been everywhere. We'll be talking about her childhood, how she first decided to become a vet and the incredible things she has done since including dehorning rhinos to protect them from poachers, capturing giraffes using helicopters, amputee elephants in Thailand, her experience during the Australian wildfire in the earlier part of 2020 - which happened in her back yard - and how everyone, whether you are an aspiring vet or not can, join the efforts to help protect our wildlife, particularly in this crazy pandemic period.
And if you have a spare moment, I'd love if you could subscribe and leave a review on Spotify, Apple Podcast, or any other platform that you're listening to. Every review helps and I read them all.
Oh, and if you stick to the end of the episode. I'll be playing back those animal sounds and telling you which animals they belong to.
One of them may surprise you.
Are you ready?
Hi, Chloe. Thank you so much for appearing on the show. It Is such an honor to have you on board.
Chloe Buiting: [00:01:57] Thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to talk to you finally
Ling Yah: [00:02:00] Looking at all the work that you've done. It's very clear that you are so very, very passionate about what you do.
And I just wondered, did you always have that passion. Where did it come from?
Chloe Buiting: [00:02:09] Yeah, I think as long as I can remember, I've been passionate about the natural world. I think it probably came from in hindsight, growing up on Lord Howe Island, which is a couple of hours off the coast of Sydney. And it's this tiny little tropical paradise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
There's hardly any cars there. So much wildlife and natural beauty. I think David Attenborough once called it a place so remarkable, it's almost unbelievable. So it really is the most beautiful place I've seen.
And my backyard was the lagoon, swimming with the sea turtles and the dolphins and the stingrays.
And I just grew up with them. So it's what I knew. And I was inspired from a really young age to want to keep the natural world natural and do what I can for conservation.
Ling Yah: [00:02:54] It just sounds like paradise on the earth. Is your family. So in this kind of area, is everyone on that island just passionate about wildlife?
Chloe Buiting: [00:03:02] My mom was a lawyer and my dad was a geologist, so nothing to do with animals whatsoever, but my granddad was a vet and Sydney, and he ran his own practice.
He died before they would meet him. But maybe it's in the blood. A lot of veterinarians sort of run in the family. So who knows what it is?
So we moved back from LA to Sydney in 2002, when it was time to go to high school. And I just stayed in love with the natural world and pursued it.
And maybe it was part of my granddad, in me, I don't know. But I'm very happy that I did.
Ling Yah: [00:03:33] Wow. So were you the one of those people who would go and see a bird that was damaged and just bring it home and nurture it to health?
Chloe Buiting: [00:03:40] Yeah, absolutely. I think my mum got sick of it pretty quickly, but yeah, I think I was just bringing anything home and I just remember on Lord Howe, so there were these little birds that laid an egg on a tree branch. They don't even bother making her nest and they're beautiful little birds and. So every day on my walk to school, I'd see these little eggs just on the branch. And I was just so worried. Because it gets windy there being a little Island.
And I was like, how can that even stay there? Like, how is it possible? I was just always so worried about everything and any injured animal, bringing them home and just having chokes and cats and everything. And yes, I was definitely an odd one out in my family.
Ling Yah: [00:04:16] And then you moved to Sydney, which is actually quite different because it's now a city and you don't have too many animals.
Like was it a bit of an adjustment for you?
Chloe Buiting: [00:04:24] Being in the city, it's definitely an adjustment. You stop noticing the little things I suppose, and things start to pass you by. So yeah, it's an adjustment. I mean, I've enjoyed everywhere that I've lived and I've lived in a range of different places, but, I definitely prefer being out in nature, surrounded by it.
So it's definitely my preference.
Ling Yah: [00:04:43] And then after that you soon went to Melbourne University where you completed a bachelor of science in talks of veterinary medicine. Can you give us an insight of what it's like to study veterinary medicine?
Chloe Buiting: [00:04:54] I graduated high school and then I went and moved to Africa for a year.
And then I came back and did my veterinary medicine degree at uni. So I started off with a bachelor of science, which was pretty straightforward at Melbourne.
And then I went into the veterinary program, which was pretty intense. Definitely a step up from the science. See, they worked really hard. The content sort of just piles on and on and on, and the expectations grow and grow.
So it's a stressful career. A stressful thing to study, I should say, but also very, very rewarding. And I really enjoyed my four years in the doctor of veterinary medicine because I made some of my best friends. I really enjoyed what I was learning about as challenging as it was. And it was so diverse and so broad, I was just went in there thinking maybe vet was this and that.
But actually if you come out with a veterinary degree, you can, there's no limit to where you can go and what your career path can be. I was really inspired by that.
And another thing I enjoyed about the degree where the placements that you have to do so every year you have to do a certain number of external placements at different facilities or veterinary clinics or zoos, wildlife, parks, whatever you want.
I mean, one girl went over to the United Nations. Another one went to the World Health Organization. So you can really go anywhere. And with those placements, I used them to explore the career and the field a little bit more rather than just the typical straightforward veterinary path. I sort of was looking a bit broader and seeing what else this had to offer.
And the placements were great to do that. So yeah, love loved my degree. Loved studying, loved Melbourne. It was a really great time in my life.
Ling Yah: [00:06:26] So, what kind of placements do you end up doing with one of them in South Africa?
Chloe Buiting: [00:06:30] It's probably no surprise that pretty much all my placements were at zoos. and wildlife parks.
I mean, they make you do certain areas. I definitely had to go and do sheep and I have to do some cows. I even went really randomly one time and decided to do like a fish placement, which was such a fail because I don't know what I was thinking, but basically it was in a factory outside of Melbourne.
And it was like a trout farm, I think on my first year of uni and they had 20,000 trout. And my job for the two weeks was to manually move, like pick up each track individually and carry it to a different tank, which was just the tank next door. So I moved 10,000 trouts over that placement and I was like, what am I doing?
But yeah, they're really, really diverse. And after that, pretty much all of my placements are zoos and different like little wildlife places. I came over here where I am now to kangaroo Island and did a placement over here and yeah, so they were great.
Ling Yah: [00:07:26] Yeah.
And what was it like working in zoos? Did they let you be a real part of the team and just do what everyone else working full time there was doing?
Chloe Buiting: [00:07:34] Usually, yes, it depends on the zoo but they often let you take an active role in the zoo. I mean, you attend rounds every morning as they do, which is where you discuss all the current inpatients and outpatients and what you have coming up for the, for the day or for the week. And then you go out and you see all your patients.
So some of them might be in the actual physical hospital. Ah, some might be out in the zoo. And then you do the treatments or the procedures that are scheduled for that day, as well as responding to any emergencies that come up or anything that needs being seen. So I was actively involved in that and it was really wonderful and it comes down to.
Some places are a little bit more hands on than others. And some countries have more restrictions than others in terms of what a vet student can and cannot do. America is quite restrictive if you're a vet student. Understandably so, but they have just a little extra sort of rules. So any placement I did in America, including a busy companion animal clinic in New York city. I spent about two or three weeks.
And I remember in the surgical suite, they have a little tape box on the floor, which is where as a student, you can stand and you're not allowed to touch anything. You just stand in that box.
And it was really eye opening to me because in Australia, you can scrub in with the surgeon. You might not have an active role, but you can pass on the instruments and you can get right up close and see what's happening. But in America it's quite different. So yeah, just different experiences depending on where you are.
But generally you can get quite involved as a student.
Ling Yah: [00:09:01] And then after that, once you finished, you spent a year in Africa doing an internship.
Chloe Buiting: [00:09:05] Yes, I did. It was amazing.
Ling Yah: [00:09:08] How was that? Surely you must have the craziest stories from Africa.
Chloe Buiting: [00:09:12] Yeah, definitely. I mean, Africa always leaves you with crazy stories.
It's just one of those places that's hard not to fall in love with, but after my year there, after high school, I had decided that I would definitely be going back when I was a veterinarian. So as soon as I graduated, I decided to go back over there. And it was a wonderful experience. I mean, the first place that I went, I decided to enroll in a wildlife capture and translocation course.
So what that means is essentially learning how to dart and anesthetize wild animals and move them for conservation purposes, such as from region A to region B, because there's not enough food or water or resources there. In the case of rhinos, it might be moving them from one area to another due to the threat of poaching.
So a lot of work like that is done. For other animals that might not be moving them or might just be capturing them in order to, for example, take blood samples to monitor for disease outbreaks. So it's quite a critical skill, I should say, of a wildlife veterinarian to have, is the ability to be able to dat anesthetize wild animals.
And it comes with a whole lot of challenges with that. So, yeah, I enrolled in that course and I learned a lot from my time in Zimbabwe doing that, which was amazing. And then after that, I went up to tanzania. I spent some time with an organization that I still work with up there, which does really important work in Maasai communities to vaccinate their dogs and their animals against rabies, which is a really important sort of one health program.
And one health refers to the movement of protecting the health of the environment, humans and animals sort of viewing them under one umbrella because you can't have one without the other, in terms of human health is quite intricately connected to animal health. As we're seeing at the moment potentially.
But with emerging diseases or with currently existing diseases such as rabies. So I went up and did a lot of that work. They also do a lion vaccination program, which is fabulous too. And through that organization, we also take Maasai students. So these young kids go out in the Bush on Safari to see some of their wildlife, because many of these students haven't seen that wildlife and people come over and try to talk to them about the importance of conservation.
But it's kind of difficult if they've never even had the chance to experience the magic of their animals for themselves. So I'm really proud of the work that we do there, and it's really exciting to be able to show those kids the magic of their wildlife and teach them a little bit about why they're important and maybe teach them some ways that they can benefit from them being around.
So what else do I do in Africa?
I shadowed some bets down in South Africa. So I spent some time in South Africa doing some more fieldwork, which was great.
And I did another internship in Malawi with a wildlife center there called the Lilongwe Wildlife Center, which was incredible as well.
So I had a fantastic year that's sure.
Ling Yah: [00:11:56] Wow, yeah, I was looking at your blog and you have pictures, like rhinos being airlifted up. Or like the capture of giraffe, which looked like a huge team effort just to get one giraffe.
Chloe Buiting: [00:12:07] Yeah. It really is. It's a huge team effort. I mean, giraffe capture is probably the craziest thing I've ever done and ever seen done and you could ever imagine doing so that's certainly been a highlight.
Ling Yah: [00:12:17] Okay. You want to capture your giraffe? How does it even work? How do you even start planning?
Chloe Buiting: [00:12:23] Yeah. Well, so you want to capture a giraffe. And maybe the first question would be why on earth would you want to capture a giraffe?
Which is a fair enough question, but usually, it could be for a bunch of different reasons. Sadly, I've seen a few giraffes caught in snares, so poachers lay snares down and they're trying to catch usually some animals for bushmeat. And different reasons, but giraffes can become easily entangled in them.
So they get them caught usually around their legs. So if a reason that you might want to capture a giraffe is to untangle them and release them from a snack. Another reason is, at least when I was in Zimbabwe, that was quite a severe drought.
And something a lot of people might not realize is that a lot of these wildlife parks in Africa, they're very enormous and expensive, but they often have walls or fences.
So they're so large, they look like enormous open spaces, but a lot of these areas are actually enclosed. So the movement of the wildlife is restricted. So if you have a drought within the park essentially, then that animal might not have access to enough food or water, or it might be overgrazed by another abundant spaces in the park.
And for whatever reason it might need moving. So this giraffe was being moved because of the environmental conditions. And, to get it takes a huge team as you pointed out.
There's a helicopter team usually because they're really fast. Despite looking really graceful, they're speedy and one of the best places to be able to spot them, follow them and dart them with your dart gun is from a helicopter.
So this is a team up in the chopper. They find the draft that you're interested in, they dart it, um, and they're very skilled at doing so.
Ling Yah: [00:13:59] And it's like an overdose to bring them down.
Chloe Buiting: [00:14:01] Yes. Yes. So that's another very good point. That's something unique about giraffe capture or from any other animal pretty much because with giraffes, you want to bring them down as quickly as you can, because otherwise they're going to run themselves into just complete exhaustion and perhaps even death, from the stress of, of the running.
So you bring them down as quickly as possible by administering a huge overdose of the drug. And that's a little bit frightening, but it brings them down quickly.
And then you reverse the drug as soon as you have them on the ground, but I've jumped ahead a little bit.
So dart at the end and then their radio signal from the helicopter team tells you where the giraffe is heading and what direction was going. And the guy on the ground, who's driving our track, we're usually in the back of the truck.
And he's driving, following the giraffe through the Bush. And usually, you can't see anything, you just tearing through the Bush and it's a crazy experience in it. It's like so wild, you're trying to hold on to anything, you can like the bars of the truck, although the railing or anything he can because he just like driving over rocks and tree branches and just taking flight in there.
And it's just wild. So you've got to hold on as best you can.
Ling Yah: [00:15:06] How many people are normally in like the helicopter team and how many people are normally in the ground?
Chloe Buiting: [00:15:10] Usually one or two in the helicopter team. So in a helicopter, you are gonna need the helicopter pilot and the darter,, but sometimes there's two darters in the back off helicopter or someone helping to load the drug into the dart.
Because if you miss, you need to quickly assemble a new dot. Well, if perhaps you've already got to assemble it, but you need to put it into the gun. And the drugs that they use are very, very potent. So one drop of this particular drug on your skin is enough to essentially stop your heart and stop your breathing within about 60 seconds.
So you have to always carry the reversal on you and be prepared to inject yourself into the leg. If you even suspect that you have splashed a little bit on you. So it's really crazy stuff. Definitely super crazy. And, I guess that's why wildlife work is pretty much like no other veterinary work that I know of.
It's just a field unto its own, well, and truly in so many different respects, So anyway, so you've seen the giraffe and we pull up in front of it in the truck and it's usually stumbling a little bit by this stage. And we jump out of the truck with ropes. There's maybe about six or seven of us in the back of the truck and with the rope that we have in our hand.
We position ourselves in front of the giraffe that's heading our way with the rope. The goal is for the giraffe to run into your rope and get entangled in it. And then you run around the giraffe's legs and basically entangle the giraffe completely in the rope and help to guide it's full down to the ground.
So you soften it's fall essentially. And that's why the truck is driving like such a maniac because you want to get to the giraffe before it stumbles down on its own because you want to be able to soften its fall.
Ling Yah: [00:16:43] How do you soften them fall though?
Chloe Buiting: [00:16:46] Yeah. Well, you have to make sure it doesn't fall on you because that would be a catastrophe.
And they are just so enormous, which sounds like a crazy thing to say, because it's rather obvious, but actually they had just huge and you need to really run quite a long distance. If there's a giraffe standing next to you, that's going to fall over if you're going to make it out of the way. So you have to be quite quick, but if the giraffe stumbles and falls without any rope work there, it has a much higher potential of breaking something or injuring itself, but the way that we're trained to use the ropes to bring its legs together is a special technique that it does actually break the fall to a certain extent and just soften it. So it's not going to be a totally cushioned fall, but it's going to be a controlled fall.
And that's what we're looking for. Just so none of its limbs are out at crazy angles. So its neck isn't. So yeah, we try to do the best that we can there.
So anyway, then you have the animal on the ground and you have to immediately find the vein running up the neck and give the antidote to there, to the drug that you use to bring it down.
And then within about maybe 60 seconds, you have a completely awake animal on the ground, which is a giraffe, and you want to make sure it stays on the ground. And I remember my first giraffe capture. I was so surprised to find out that just about three or four people sitting along its neck will be enough to keep it on the ground, even when it's completely awake.
And if you put earplugs in and a blindfold on it will actually stay quite calm throughout. So it's not a horribly stressful experience to the animal, even though it might sound it. But just a couple of you sitting on its neck, which is usually the position I'm in is enough to keep that animal in the ground because it removes any leverage it has to get itself back up.
So once you're at that stage, it's quite a surreal experience sitting on a giraffe's neck. Sometimes it is able to raise its neck a little bit. I remember my knees temporarily leaving the ground, but I actually remember a story from a colleague and a friend who was once sitting on a giraffe's neck himself.
Except he was at the top of the neck and the two or three colleagues he thought were behind him actually had got off for whatever reason. And he hadn't. But he said within a split second, he was somehow on a giraffe's neck holding on. The animal had gotten up and it started running away into the distance. And he was just dangling underneath its neck, like holding on with his arms and legs.
And he thought to himself, what on earth am I going to do? Like, what am I going to do? This is not a good situation to be in. So ultimately, which I can't believe he did this, but I guess what else are you going to do? He just closed his eyes and let go and curled himself up into a ball and let himself drop from the neck to the ground.
As the giraffe was running, mind you. And just hoping that he didn't get kicked by one of the enormous legs on the way down or that he didn't land on something. And miraculously, somehow he made it out there live. And I've just always thought of this story when I'm, whenever I'm in a similar situation. I just think it's the craziest thing I've ever had.
So preparation is everything, but yeah, giraffes are an amazing animal to work with. And from there, I mean, usually, you walk them onto a truck, so you can just keep the blindfold on, stand the animal up and you use your ropes, which are tied around their chest area to steer them almost like car and the animal will walk really calmly into your truck or wherever you want it to go and it's really an amazing experience to see.
Ling Yah: [00:20:12] So I found what was interesting was you saying that you blindfold it and put earplugs into it and that is to, kind of like desensitize it from any kind of like stimulation.
People use that technique quite a lot for other animals, like for a crocodile capture, they kind of do the same thing as all right?
You just roll on top of its neck and grab it and just cover its eyes and it just comes down.
Chloe Buiting: [00:20:33] Yeah. Yeah, it's amazing. Um, it's really cool what happens when you remove any stimulus. So any sort of sounds or any sight, I mean, with reptiles is the added benefit that there's a little sneaky trick, that if you apply some light pressure to their eyelids, it can actually induce almost like a pseudo sedation.
It doesn't work with every reptile, but in general, if you want an animal or a reptile to lay really still for you and almost be sedated. It just takes a little bit of pressure on the eyelids. So that's an amazing little trick to these little like inter-species differences.
I really love the same thing with the tapir, which maybe not everyone is familiar with, but they're the most amazing animals they kind of look-
Have you seen one?
Ling Yah: [00:21:14] No, I haven't actually. I've seen pictures. I think there's some in my country but I've just never seen it.
Chloe Buiting: [00:21:20] There are so, Oh my gosh. I would love to come over and see your take is that they're beautiful. They kind of look like a, I dunno like a piggy kind of like, but it has a trunk, so it's like an elephant, but it kind of looks like a rhino.
I don't know how to describe them, but the same thing in the reptiles with the eyelids can be done in the tape is if you just scratch this side, so you usually just take a rake. And give them a little bit of a scratch on their tummy or on their side. And they will lie on the ground. They will stay perfectly still.
You can take blood, you can take x-rays if you just scratch their side, they will be like a sedated animal. So it's a really cool trick if you know how to use it.
Ling Yah: [00:21:56] That is so absolutely amazing. I love it.
What other stories do you have from Africa? I read that you also did dehorning procedures for rhinos as well.
Chloe Buiting: [00:22:05] Yeah, it is.
What's happening with the rhinos over in Africa at the moment and indeed the past 10 years is truly horrific and heartbreaking. I mean, we've pushed them to the brink of extinction in a very short amount of time because their horn holds a huge value on the black market and it's believed to cure a multitude of different things in different cultures.
And that hasn't been proven. It's just made up of keratin, which is just the same stuff as our fingernails. So I find the whole thing very senseless, and I'd be very, very sad to see rhinos go from our planet.
They've roamed the planet for millions of years so far longer than that. So it would be a tragedy, but anyway, so they're facing almost like a war in Africa for their whole, and it's gotten to a stage where rhinos are being, as you mentioned earlier, airlifted out of places.
Removed. They're having 24 hours security on individual animals. There are, you know, people are murdering each other just to get a tiny amount of this horn. And they're doing the most horrific things. Some of the worst cases I've seen, I mean, poachers won't really stop at anything to get them just because it is so valuable.
So they'll shoot them, dart them. There have been cases of rhinos that have been darted, but then they've had an ax or a machete taken to their spine to paralyze them. Because the poachers often maybe don't want to use a gun if it doesn't have a silencer, because it will trigger an alarm. Like people hear the shot and that will trigger the Rangers to come and investigate.
So they'll use a dart or they'll immobilize the animal temporarily and then just paralyze it. So it kind of escapes, but it's awake during the dehorning, which is done by the poachers with the chainsaw usually.
The most horrific scenes come out of it because they take a chance or to the face to cut out the horn.
However, because every little bit of horn is so valuable. They cut right into the face, like into the bone, into the sinuses, into the flesh. And this animal is awake and conscious while this is happening often, and they're just left to bleed out and horrendous pain through their face. I mean, if they're a mother with a calf, the calf will often stay there and try to defend the mother and the poachers will take a machete to the calf or shoot the calf or just horrible things. The ones, the calf that survives. I mean there are so many rhino orphanages now around South Africa and Africa in general, looking after the young animals that are victims of this. But yes.
So as you mentioned after that huge downer, a lot of veterinary work in Africa to do with rhinos is either moving these animals or responding to poaching call outs, or to try to beat the poachers to it by dehorning them, which is where we go ahead and safely anesthetize the animal, remove the horn, but leave a few centimeters at the base. So you take the horn, which is just like cutting a nail if done correctly.
So you just cut the part off. That's not sensitive. Whereas if you cut into your nail and you get the sensitive part, that's painful, obviously. So we cut above that line and just take the horn in a way to try and physically remove that bounty from the head. I mean, sadly, it doesn't always work. And what I mean by that is some poachers will still kill a rhino out of spite, which is really sad, but it's the best that we can do to try and protect them at the moment. So, yeah.
The dehorning procedure is a really amazing thing to be a part of. It's also a little bit of a scary thing. You usually have an armed guard with you just because now you're the one with the horn.
So you have a target on your head. And depending on sort of which region you're in, you have to generally take them to the nearest holding location, which is a secure and undisclosed location where the rhino is harnessed, or depending on where you're working. So the drive to get the horn there is usually quite a hairy experience because yeah, you just know what people are willing to do to get their hands on the stuff and you feel quite vulnerable.
I mean, usually it's transported by an armed guard, but I remember one time we just had a hole in our car, like on my lap and we were driving through South Africa. We had to go about two hours to get it to where we were taking it. And it was just a very, very tense car ride because we didn't know what would happen or if we'd be ambushed for it.
and if people would even know, but yeah, it was a really scary experience. So it's very surreal working with Africans, working with rhinos in Africa because. It just is my closest experience at least to working in a war zone almost.
Ling Yah: [00:26:21] And what happens to the horns when they arrive at the holding centers though?
Chloe Buiting: [00:26:24] Again, well, that is a huge debate at the moment. So there are lots of schools of thought at the moment they're just being held. In some places they are destroyed, in some places they're being stockpiled, in other places, there's just constantly, I don't know what they're up to, but constantly a debate about if the sale of rhino horn should be legalized.
And there are pros and cons for both arguments in terms of pros, maybe hoping to flood the market, reduce the value of the whole and therefore reduce the motive or incentive for the poachers to come and massacre the rhinos.
I mean, historically I'm not too sure, but I think the other argument is that that actually hasn't been proven to reduce demand or reduce the value or perhaps is not even enough in the stockpiles to sufficiently flood the market and do that.
There's another discussion about farming rhinos for their horns. So the horn grows back relatively quickly. You have to de-horn them every couple of years. So what we could do to try and counter that. I know it's slightly off your question, but we could de-horn them. Keep those horns, sell those horns.
So the farmed horn could be sold and therefore that could maybe meet the demand of these markets. Uh, like you go buy this horn, it's like a sustainably produced horn in a weird way, in terms of the rhino didn't need to be brutally murdered to collect it, but then there's been pushback from the black market because the suggestion is that these markets actually prefer wild caught rhino horn. So there's just no winning.
I mean, there's no scientific evidence that the rhino horn does anything. In fact, it does nothing. It's just keratin, but the such a demand for it. And even if we try to meet the demand by saying, okay, we'll farm rhinos and we'll just cut their horns off every few years and sell it.
It's still not what they want. They want essentially freshly cut wild rhino horns, which has done in the most horrific way. So I feel very sad about the whole situation.
Ling Yah: [00:28:12] But can people even know the difference between a horn that's taken from a wild animal?
Chloe Buiting: [00:28:18] No, absolutely not. You got you can't. It's a silly debate to be even having because it doesn't do anything.
However, you wouldn't be able to tell. I mean, you would never be able to tell whether a veterinarian dehorned a rhino from a rhino reserve took that horn and sold it to you versus a poacher came along and hacked off a wild rhino's horn and then sold it. Like there'd be no difference in the horn whatsoever.
And there'd be no way of telling.
Ling Yah: [00:28:42] I mean, you kind of mentioned this briefly about the whole poaching, and I imagine that rhinos are not the only ones at risk from this. So do you feel like it was quite dangerous for you just being than doing the work that you were doing?
Chloe Buiting: [00:28:54] We usually have quite a good guard. We usually have quite good protection, particularly if you're doing rhino work. So I never really felt at risk. No, no, I didn't.
Ling Yah: [00:29:04] Oh wow. So what other animals were you involved in caring for, in helping?
Chloe Buiting: [00:29:08] Quite a few. I mean, there are plenty of elephants. Elephants are a really common one to work with because they're troublemakers.
They will usually trample through fences break their way out of different reserves. They will come into a community and trample farmers' crops, and the farmers get really angry about that. So they're always making trouble. So a lot of call-outs to move an elephant out of someone's backyard or out of an area where they shouldn't be back into where they should be.
So they're really big ones.
Ling Yah: [00:29:40] So how do you even move. Such a giant animal in the first place.
Chloe Buiting: [00:29:45] Yeah. It definitely presents some challenges. I mean, every animal has a different challenge. The elephants challenge is that it's so-
Ling Yah: [00:29:52] And you can't airlift it.
Chloe Buiting: [00:29:54] Unfortunately you can't strap it to a helicopter. I don't think they'd be able to take that.
Um, I mean, we usually how you move an elephant, they can go on a plane, but that's pretty dramatic. So you usually move an elephant. At least around short distances in Africa, or even you can do it long distances, but it's a bit more complicated on the back of a humongous truck. And on that truck, you have to put really massive tires like car and truck tires to lay the animal on because the weight of the animal will crash its muscles.
If it's just lying on a hard surface. So you have to make a really padded surface. So that's the reason for the tires. So, that's really crazy experience and crazy undertaking. And they can go quite long distances like that. But usually, usually if you're lucky, you just have to move from the short distance back to wherever they broke themselves out of whichever national park they came from.
So to even get them onto the truck is quite tricky, but you have their legs and you tie padded chains around their four legs. And then it's like an enormous crane, basically, that lifts the animal up kind of like it would on a building side or something.
And then it swings the animal into the back of the truck and then gently lowers the animal onto the back of the truck and onto the tires. So that's a really, really crazy thing to say for sure. And a really important thing to remember with that is that elephants depend on their trunk being open in order to breathe.
So a lot of the time an elephant can come down when you've darted it and it might fall over on its trunk or something, and that's a true emergency. So you have to always make sure that the first thing you do is get to the trunk, pull it out from wherever it is, or if it's up against a tree, unblock it.
And then you take just a little stick from somewhere and you stick it into the nostrils essentially, and just make sure that trunk stays open. So yeah, usually someone has to be on trunk duty, but elephants are really crazy to work with that special.
What else? I mean the big cats, leopards lions. They're really cool.
They're fabulous. I mean, a little fun trick. I like with big cats, is that Calvin Klein has a scent called obsession for men. And I don't think they figured out exactly what it is I'll perhaps they have.
But something in that scent is a huge attractor for big cats. And it's really handy because if you have a trap in the Bush and you're heading to capture a leopard or a cheetah.
You just spray the scent all over the trap and they will come. So it's really fabulous. So I always think, I always wonder, like what about all the men on Safari that are wearing this? And I laugh every time I say it in the shop.
Ling Yah: [00:32:28] How did you guys even figure out that it was that scent? Was it because someone was wearing it?
Chloe Buiting: [00:32:32] That's such a good question. I would love to know that I'm going to have to ask someone because I don't know how they discovered it, but it had to have been someone wearing it. So that's so funny and I couldn't believe I've not thought of that, but I'll ask and I'll let you know.
Ling Yah: [00:32:45] Why would you want to capture wild cat?
Chloe Buiting: [00:32:48] A wild cat. Um, usually in my experience, which isn't like the most extensive out of wildlife that's out there, but all the wild cats I've seen, I have been caught in a snare. So. Um, the snares often get put at the base of trees around places like that, where wild cats often are, or jumping up from or jumping down from, and they get caught in it.
And it's quite a horrendous thing to watch. I mean, the only other reason I've been involved in the mobilization of a wild cat was a lion and that lion had been fitted with a tracking collar about a year beforehand. And the mistracking color was being removed now that the study was completed.
So a lot of animals in Africa are monitored for their movements and studied, like, what are their home ranges?
How much space do they need? How far do they go? Just collecting this data.
Checking the prevalence of diseases in the area. So you might want to catch a cat and take a blood sample and see what's going on there. I mean, if there was an outbreak of disease, you want to check that it's not resolved or you might want to vaccinate the animal, but that can also be done from dieting.
So, yeah, there are a few reasons, but I would say snares and tracking collars and disease surveillance would be the three most common.
Ling Yah: [00:34:01] How do you know that the animal is hurting? Which animal is hurt in the first place?
Chloe Buiting: [00:34:06] Yeah, that's another really good question. So a lot of these national parks have rangers and the rangers are responsible for the monitoring of the animals that is heightened in certain areas like Krueger, where there can be a particular concern for rhino poaching, Kruger national park in South Africa.
A lot of national parks have their own wildlife team. So they constantly survey the animals or wildlife veterinary team, and they keep an eye on the animals and make sure everything's going well. And now the huge reserve of animals in Africa at private game reserves, which are so large, they look like enormous national parks and the animals are free to roam, but it might just be a privately owned park.
And they also usually have a veterinary team or at least a veterinarian, usually some Rangers just doing the rounds of the area. And again, depending on where you are, if you're in a high-risk area, they might even have their own anti-poaching teams. So these anti-poaching literally follow the rhinos 24 seven monitoring them.
And when you're doing that, you are able to notice any changes in the animals and also you cover quite a lot of the park and you're able to notice if an animal's injured. So that's usually how it's done, but I'm sure there are quite a lot that goes unnoticed and not the way you'd find out is in the really big, popular tourist areas like a Tasha national park or the Masaimara national park in Tanzania.
They have a lot of tourists coming through and the tourists have Safari guides and the guides are able to let the rangers of the park if they've seen an animal that's injured, they can give them the area of where they saw that animal. And then they can go and check on the animal. So, yeah, that's usually how it's done.
Ling Yah: [00:35:43] I like how you mentioned that you know, these tourists, because that was another question I had in my mind. Like you go to places like Thailand, for instance, and you kind of know, you don't want to go to the elephant reserves, maybe they're not looking after the elephants the way they should. Should people go to the safaris?
Is it safe for the animals or do you think that we should avoid it?
Chloe Buiting: [00:36:02] Yeah, they usually pretty well managed. I made a lot of parks keep tourist numbers and the parks that we're talking about, they're really enormous. So I think it is by and large well managed. And another point is that a lot of these places literally rely on ecotourism to fund their operations.
I mean, if you look at the private game reserves, this is a really good example of that. Private people might own rhinos and they might've done so for a long time lately, having rhinos on your property is a ridiculously expensive thing to do because rhinos need protection. They need an anti-poaching team watching them, or you're not going to have a rhino for much longer.
So that costs money. So the same thing for the national parks, it costs money to protect these animals, to pay for the vets, to pay for the anti-poaching team in to move them from one place to the other, to put in secure fences, to have this monitoring in place. So tourists coming to bring money to the area.
I mean, they support these ventures when they're done.
The same thing can be said of the gorillas in Rwanda and Uganda and the DRC. I mean, ecotourism, that has been such a huge reason for the success of the program.
I mean, not long ago, it was thought that by the year 2000 or somewhere around here, that gorillas might be permanently gone from the world or these mountain gorillas specifically in this area.
And then they introduced a conservation program. They introduced ecotourism where people can come and pay and have very strictly controlled viewings of these rare and elusive spaces.
So you track through the jungle. You find a gorilla group, you're allowed to stay with it for an hour. You have to keep seven meters apart from them, you have to be silent.
And the gorillas are accustomed to humans over a long period of time. And that amount of money that approached the area was able to sustain the farmers. Pay for the livelihoods. It was able to protect the park. It was able to pay the Rangers who you'd literally follow the gorillas 24/7 and protect them from any poachers.
It was able to pay for advertising campaigns, teaching people why it's bad to hunt gorillas for bushmeat. I mean, these places simply wouldn't exist for that ecotourism. So when done, well, I think it's can be really, really good. I think that they should continue to go and support them. And it's a fabulous way for people to support conservation efforts while having a wonderful experience and doing some good.
Ling Yah: [00:38:19] It sounds like everything that you do, you can't possibly do it by yourself. Like, you need a big team. So what's the community like?
Chloe Buiting: [00:38:27] The community is amazing. You can't do anything by yourself as wildlife and nothing. Nothing never, never, never. It's a team sport kind of thing, which is a weird thing to say.
The people in this field is so knowledgeable and passionate and experienced and I feel so fortunate to know them and every experience I've had with them, I feel so lucky to work with them and to be a part of it. But I'm just inspired by the work. I mean, you don't go into that for the money. You go into vet for the passion, particularly in wildlife. So everyone doing it is motivated by a huge desire to do their part in the world.
And to protect what they see as a right to protect, and to make a difference. So I'm really inspired by them and yeah, it's a huge team effort and there it's a small, small community and it's a small world.
I mean, wildlife, it is a pretty, super-specific niche in a way, so you tend to know most people in the area, no matter if they're in Africa or in America, or if you're here in Australia or Asia, there's quite a lot of connections.
You tend to know almost everybody. And it's just such an amazing group of people. And it's a thing that can only be done by the team. Absolutely.
Ling Yah: [00:39:33] We've talked about Africa, your life. Did you feel that you had a particular kind of affinity to the wildlife that does animals? Or was it like, you just love all the animals?
Chloe Buiting: [00:39:43] I think probably I probably have a bit of an affinity to Africa because. Straight out of high school. Like I was only 18 years old and I went over and lived there for a year. So I think that gave me a real affinity or sort of started my love affair with Africa. And then throughout university, I just wanted to get back there.
And I guess Africa is sort of like the iconic place you think of when you think wildlife. I mean, the first thing people think in general is like elephants and giraffes and rhinos. So I think in a way, I am madly in love with Africa and I do love the animals there.
That being said over the past few years, my eyes have sort of opened to the whole world in terms of as wildlife in many different places.
Like there are so many other places to explore and even in my own backyard, which was sort of shown to me this summer with the horrendous fires. I mean, I fell back in love with our animals and I thought I looked at Australia with fresh eyes and I was like, Oh, we have really amazing animals here too.
And they need protecting, and that's what I want to do as well.
Ling Yah: [00:40:40] Yeah. Can you tell us a bit more about Australia? Coz I mean Australians make the news all the time with all of your crazy wildlife animals like giant tarantulas.
Chloe Buiting: [00:40:48] Oh they're
Ling Yah: [00:40:49] everywhere.
Chloe Buiting: [00:40:50] I mean, just growing up with it, I don't think I recognized it, because you don't really see what's immediately around you.
Like it's just normal, but I think I just started recognizing how crazy our animals were when I married Jan, who is a German vet that I met several years ago at a conference in America. And he being German, or maybe just being, not from Australia, thought that our animals are the craziest things.
And it didn't help that we moved to this crazy little Island this year that has like extra crazy animals that are just like humongous spiders and very, very, very venomous snakes and our garden. And like, just crazy things. So I just looked at Australia and realized that we have a lot of wildlife here too.
I don't always need to rush off to Africa and I'd love to take every chance I get to go back there. But Australia needs a lot of help as well.
I mean, we have the highest rate of mammal extinction in the entire world, which is shocking to me because we're a first world country and we're also known for our outdoors and our nature and our wildlife.
That is literally what the world thinks of us. And it's a reputation we don't deserve to have because we are just plowing through mammals faster than any other country in the world, by something like 200 times the right of any other country. So we're just losing species and not doing anything proactive about it.
So I'm quite ashamed to say that, but it's the truth. So I want to focus the next few years on and spending my, some of my time here, at least. And that was particularly hot in the summer when we had the Bush fires, which everyone obviously saw about this a few times in my childhood. I remember Bush fires getting that close, um, particularly when we lived in Sydney.
But this was the closest in a long time. I mean, the Island to which we moved a few months before the bushfire crisis. I think we moved here in October or November and we got hit with the fires in January. And the Island is quite a large Island. It's the largest in Australia so it's quite big. And the bushfires came, it's all a blur.
I think it was on the 6th of January and they hung around for a few days. And what happened is essential that close to half of our Island was burnt down, which was tragic in itself, but it's also horrendous because we have a really special population of wildlife here.
Because it's an Island, we're protected from a lot of diseases and we also have a lot of unique subspecies of animals here, which is really special.
So we lost a lot of them.
And the night that they came really close to my house, I remember seeing the glow of the fire just oh, not too far from my house, just off in the distance. It was maybe two in the morning. We had our bags packed and ready to evacuate and we just said, no, it's going to get here. We have to leave.
So we ran around the house. Couldn't see anything, like if you've put your hand in front of your face, You wouldn't be able to see your hand through the smoke. My husband and I were running, throwing the stuff that we maybe wanted to keep in the car. We'd already had this box packed for a few days, just like really special stuff to us and throw it in the car and just left down to the waterfront.
But I mean, there wasn't far to cope. There's just the beach and that's it. But we already saw from other coastal towns in Australia, that people, the fire went right up to the beach and people had to swim out into the water in order not to be harmed from the heat of the flame. So it was a really intense time.
And then the second wave came in terms of as soon as we were allowed out on the fire grounds, the veterinary team went out and were bringing in badly injured animals. And there were just so many of them, it's like a scene I've never really imagined or seen before. Just koalas and kangaroos that have had the entire bodies burnt and their faces and their fur.
The hands and feet, just all, all burnt off yet. The animal is still alive. A lot of the time, many of them weren't able to be saved, but a lot of them were, I mean, at one stage we had over a hundred koalas in hospital, having their wounds treated in their hands and feet bandaged.
And it was a really, really challenging time. I mean, they were clearly in a lot of pain. We were doing what we could for them, but it is just really hard.
To see animals that had suffered like that, and it was, yeah, it was one of the more challenging times in my career, I think. But at the same time, seeing them recover and do well, was really encouraging.
And then later on. Releasing them back into the wild was also a really special experience. So it's been a really big summer and I cannot even believe that it was still this year with everything else that's happened since then. I mean, it's crazy to me, but yeah, it was this year and that was crazy.
I didn't think the world get much crazier than that after February this year, but it certainly did. I was wrong.
Ling Yah: [00:45:22] Before you went back to Australia, you were actually in other places like Thailand, right?
Chloe Buiting: [00:45:27] Yeah. Yeah. I was most recently in Thailand in January, which again is crazy. That was last year. That was really special trip because I was able to meet with a lot of aspiring veterinary students. And talk to them a little bit about the field, much like I'm talking to you. I was also able to do some work with the elephants at the elephant nature park.
And I was also able to go in and talk with the vets and visit the first prosthetics hospital for elephants, which is just out of Chiang Mai in Thailand. They make prosthetic legs for elephants that have lost their legs and landmines that are scattered along the Thai Cambodia border up there and seeing these amputee elephants, some of them old, some of them young and seeing them have their prosthetics made and, and fit their prosthetics.
It's just amazing. It's a place I've been inspired by for a long time and it was really special to be there.
Ling Yah: [00:46:19] Oh, that's really incredible. And I think I was reading how, the elephants would always put their prosthetics on, that's the first thing in the morning
It's amazing. They're such intelligent animals. So they take them off to sleep. And you're exactly right. The first thing that I do in the morning is put them on and then the helpers will take them off in the evening and they are able to go to sleep. I mean, they're able to get around without the injured limb, but just because they're such huge animals, it's not a longterm solution for them to not have assistance there.
Chloe Buiting: [00:46:49] So they're able to hobble along without it, just in the evenings, but then it's much better for them to have it. And a lot of them take to it really, really well. There's a young elephant that got it when she was young. So she's done one of the best because it's probably all she's ever known, but even elephants that come in, much later into their lives, they're able to accept the prosthetics, which is great.
Ling Yah: [00:47:11] And you kind of mentioned that you were speaking to like other like aspire veterinary students as well. So it was that part of loopabroad?
Chloe Buiting: [00:47:18] It was part of loopabroad , which is a study abroad company and we take students from all over the world that are studying undergraduate degrees or they're already in veterinary medicine and hopefully soon to be new graduate bets as well.
I'm working on some new trips that we take these people interested in wildlife and conservation. Even if they're not studying to be a vet, maybe they're studying to be a biologist or a Marine scientist, something like that, and take them on a range of different experiences to different wildlife hospitals and conservation organizations all over the world.
And I think it's just such an amazing opportunity. For them because the trips are amazing. They work with grassroots organizations in the places that we go to. And I did a similar thing like that myself when I was 18, just out of high school. When I first went over to Africa and it, without a doubt, changed my life as have a lot of the experiences abroad that I've had during vet school.
So I wouldn't have this career, had it not been for my own experiences abroad. And I am really happy that I'm able in a way to contribute to giving someone else that experience too.
Ling Yah: [00:48:21] I see that you operate in places like not just Australia, South Africa but also Amazon, Belize and university students can also go there and get credits as well.
So is it like one of those really unique outreach programs that they can apply to all their, like, quite a few of those out there that people can apply to?
Chloe Buiting: [00:48:37] Yeah. So, um, at least with Loopabroad, we have a whole bunch of different places available for people to go. so you can really choose what suits you.
You can also go to all of them if you want, and it is a way to get credit. So that's a really amazing thing. I mean, there's also the possibility separate from loop abroad for someone interested in wildlife conservation to go and volunteer with some of these places.
I mean, I've listed exactly for that reason, a lot of my favorite places on my website until my get involved page. And it's a list I carefully put together over many years and they accept a whole bunch of people from different backgrounds and things. You don't have to be a vet. You can be a digital marketer or you can be a lawyer, an engineer.
There's so many different roles in conservation for you, all you have to do is be passionate and want to help and want to learn.
Ling Yah: [00:49:28] And you've brought me perfectly to my next question, which is about jungle doctor, which is your website. Tell us about that website that you started, as it says August 2019, like, where's it going?
What's your vision?
Chloe Buiting: [00:49:40] I'm really excited about it. I started my Instagram page a few years before it, and I always wanted to start a website because I got so many of the same questions. Tell me a bit more about your history or where can I get some experiences or what would you recommend or people that you found inspiring?
So I wanted to put it all together in a website.
I've got some stories about different things I've been involved in. I've got the get involved page where people can get active in these projects themselves. I've got a where in the world page of where I am at the moment and what projects I'm helping.
And I've also set up a scholarship and conservation fund, which I'm really excited about to help students or vets or biologists or conservation organizations in the missions that they're currently involved in with the work they do or research they want to undertake, or what programs they want to go on to increase their knowledge.
So it's an annual application for a scholarship, and then we will pick the person who's successful that year and then give out the scholarship. That's funded in a lot of different ways through donations and fundraising that I do myself, but I've also decided to put 10% of my annual salary into that because I always thought, you know, when I'm older, I'm going to make a scholarship and help people out.
But then I went on, I did some more work and realized it's not a huge amount of money that you need to make a huge difference to some of these places. So I thought I didn't really need to wait until I'm old. I mean, I will just start this up now. so I'm doing what I can for that, which is exciting.
And through the website, I'm also excited to launch my book soon, mainly about my passion for conservation and essentially this conversation we've just had today in some of my work I'm in my early years on the how, and just the rhinos, the elephants, everything that I've talked to you about, um, I wanted to share it in this book and really more of the reasons why I'm so passionate about this. In terms of what it means for us all, like, why should we all take an active role in conservation? And why should we worry about it?
Because it does affect all of us, but that's what my book is about. I signed a publishing deal maybe seven months ago now. And it's been a long time since then. So I've been working on it by them on my second draft. And I've nearly finished that it's for that. So the book is officially going to be in stores, I think on the 3rd of March next year.
But hopefully all of the writing will be done in three weeks' time. So I'm happy about that.
Ling Yah: [00:52:02] So you have a book and I think you're also working on courses as well.
Chloe Buiting: [00:52:07] Yeah. Yeah. So I'm working on that. I'll see, where that goes, but I'm really excited about putting some more material out there for people who are interested in getting involved in this and just even getting started.
I noticed there was a bit of a knowledge gap. When it comes to wildlife conservation stuff. So I just wanted to make it a bit more clear about what it is, how to get involved, what are the basic skills you're going to need? So stay tuned for that, but it's in its very early stages. And as soon as I'm done with this book, I will be giving it my full-time attention.
Ling Yah: [00:52:36] So yeah, they just need to sign up to your newsletter and they will know.
Chloe Buiting: [00:52:39] Exactly. Yes, exactly. Thank you.
Ling Yah: [00:52:43] So you've got your Instagram and your website, and I don't know if it's fair to say it's like a millennial thing. If you will, like, we do our jobs, our passions, and we put it on social media so other people can share and understand a little bit more.
Do you feel like social media is becoming a very crucial part of your work?
Chloe Buiting: [00:52:59] I actually think it's a huge part of my work. I mean, I didn't think I would ever say this when I started it. I, to be honest, just started my Instagram for my dad who was always like, what are you doing all day? I'm like, Ugh, I'll put it online and you can have a look at it.
But, since then it's really grown. And my passion for it has grown. You can reach so many people with your message and share what's important to you and just have that amplified. And we're so lucky to have that. There's definitely a downside to it, but when done right, I think it's an incredibly powerful tool that generations before us just didn't have available to them. I mean, even my mum was saying, if you wanted to protest something that you weren't happy with, you had to meet up with a couple of your friends and make a plan.
And they would tell a couple of people, and it's just a very laborious process, but we have at our fingertips, the access to all of the world and people who care about the same things you do. So I think it's an incredible tool and I feel very fortunate to be able to share my work on it. And I really take a lot of enjoyment from it and I love connecting with people.
And I think that, yeah, it's a wonderful part and a very important part of this new world of ours.
Ling Yah: [00:54:03] So I was just wondering when you first started it, what was the reception like? Were people like very encouraging, excited, with lots of questions?
Chloe Buiting: [00:54:11] Yeah. I think it was from the start. I mean, that was a while ago now, but I remember getting my first comment, I was like, Oh my goodness.
Someone is interested in this. It's amazing because I am so interested in this too. I cannot believe with this, another human being out there. And then I just started getting more messages and comments and people were always just super intrigued about this field. And I took so much joy from that because I feel the same way and know that other people care about it.
I was like, wow, it isn't just me. it makes you feel like you're a part of a community and you are a part of a community because there are so many people that share the same mission as you. And that's really inspiring.
And the cool thing about it is that they're outside of your circle. They're not the vets that you went to uni with, or the vets that you work with, or even vets at all.
They are people working in an abundance of different fields interested in this work, and that is really encouraging and inspiring. So I think it's great. Yeah.
Ling Yah: [00:55:06] What do you think is the most effective way of kind of like sharing the message that you're doing? I noticed that some zoos, for instance, have Instagram, but they don't really use it.
So I think people don't really get to connect with the stories and the kind of good work that they're doing.
Chloe Buiting: [00:55:21] Yeah, I think it's really important to communicate your why. I noticed a lot of zoos doing that as well, and they might just post like a cute photo of something. But I think it's important to grab the viewer with why are you doing this?
Or why should you stop scrolling and look at this? Why is this important? And if possible, why does it affect them? Or what can they do? Something that's engaging and that will teach them something. Also, behind the scenes stuff is really great. show people a side of things they haven't seen before.
I mean, when a zoo is uploading a photo of an elephant, that's nice, but everyone's saying that. Teach us a little bit about what you do behind the scenes. It's so powerful.
Zoos had a really critical time in my opinion of public viewing or public opinion. I mean, I think they can go one of two ways and I'm really passionate about the work of good zoos because they're critical to species survival and they're critical to conservation.
They provide so much funding to in situ conservation projects. I mean, they do so much good work with their breeding programs, their educational programs, everything that they do. So I think they're critical to conservation, but a lot of people don't like them. So use your platform, show people what it is that you are doing for conservation in the wild, and why you are important and why you deserve to be here.
Ling Yah: [00:56:33] I love your advice, I think it's great. But I think you also mentioned that there are some downsides to social media. Do you mind sharing what those are?
Chloe Buiting: [00:56:41] I haven't really experienced much of them myself, but obviously we all know it can be addictive. People can put their self-value on the number of likes they get or the number of followers they have, which is not at all representative of anything really.
So I think it's just about just managing your use of it, keeping yourself in check, and knowing why you're using it. Just catching yourself if you find yourself sort of spiraling down any of those rabbit holes of comparison or things like that.
So if you just had too much screen time, time to step away and don't think. I would never want someone to place all of their worth on social media.
Ling Yah: [00:57:16] Have you ever felt at any point that you wanted to give up? Or you've regretted going down this path?
Chloe Buiting: [00:57:22] I just recently got a flashback to those trout in first year. So no more fish. I definitely regretted my choices then, but, as of now, no, I've never regretted my decision whatsoever.
It's definitely hard days. I mean, it's a really challenging career. It's challenging emotionally. It's challenging physically sometimes. It's exhausting. So it's by no means the perfect career. I don't think there is a perfect career really though. I mean, it's perfect for me. I get to do something that I'm passionate about and that I have I can find meaning in.
And I think finding meaning in your work is really important. And so I feel really fortunate to be able to do that. And I've never, never looked back, but there are challenges and people should know that.
Ling Yah: [00:58:07] do you handle your mental health? And I say this in the form of like animals come to you. And the loss of them can be really hurt. Like for instance, during the Australian fire. And how do you kind of like get through that kind of emotional burden, if you will to do the work and just help them get better.
Chloe Buiting: [00:58:23] Yeah, it's really, it's really hard. There can be really hard days. I mean, some days if you're going through a particular crisis, like the times of the bushfire crisis.
So if that's happening, you need to really watch yourself and rely on your team. Coming back to this team idea, there's nothing you do by yourself. you're part of a team. And if you're struggling one day, you let them know and maybe it's time to take a day off or a step back.
In other respects, I mean, time commitment, depending on the job that you have can be quite grueling. So you just need to watch yourself and work out what's important.
I was working a job last year in Scotland with the occasional wildlife case, but it was in an emergency clinic in Scotland and I was doing 14-hour shifts back to back for a long period of time.
It was stressful and I was getting burnt out and I wasn't enjoying it. So I had to take a step back and recognize that and reduce my hours, say this wasn't working for me. So that's another one.
I mean, relying on friends and family remembering who you are outside of your profession is another big one. Because I say a lot of people really firmly tie their identity to being a vet. Like I am a vet that is who I am at the core. And I think, that's admirable, but I think it also leaves you open to vulnerabilities because if something isn't going well in vet, if you get burnt out, if you're exhausted if you find yourself not liking it if that's tied to your sense of self, that's going to be really destructive.
So, I work. I don't tie my identity to being a vet. Like I work as a vet. That's what I do. It's what I enjoy. But I am so much more than that.
I am a wife and I am a friend. I'm a daughter. I really bad surfer. I am a traveler. I tried to take photos. I mean, yeah, a lot more than that.
I feel like you're a lot more stable or at least from my own perspective, if you try to scatter your eggs amongst a bunch of baskets, rather than really firmly tie yourself to one.
So I think that's a few of the things I try to do. Just to remind myself not to tie my identity to it or to the success of a case. I mean, things will go badly. You have to remind yourself of that. You have to have a good support network around you, who you trust, who you can talk to. You have to be able to recognize when you're getting burnt out or it's too much and take a step back.
And if it's too much, I mean, this might sound crazy, but if it's not working out for you, you can always turn around and do something else. A lot of people are really opposed to that idea that nothing is forever. If it works out forever for you, then that's great. And that's wonderful, but something that's at least helped me is the ability to know that if I find myself waking up one day and not in love with this and I'll do something else and that's okay, I don't see that happening, but it's just important to remember. You always have other options.
Ling Yah: [01:00:59] Thank you so much for that . And another question is basically the issue of finance. You touched on it briefly with the scholarship and by the way, I'm so in awe of the fact that you're also funding it yourself from your own pocket.
I must imagine that, being a vet, it's just not easy and it's also not cheap either.
So reality check for those who are interested in entering that field, what can they expect?
Chloe Buiting: [01:01:22] Yeah, that's a huge reality check and something important to know, because I don't feel like many people come into this profession for the money and you would be very ill-advised to do so, if that was your motivating force, one of the things that I love so much about it is that people have come into it out of passion.
So you have a really good group of people here, but, the reality of the situation is that you go to graduate school. One of the most challenging graduate schools you can go to, you get a similar qualification to the equivalent of a human doctor. I mean, you go through medical school and you come out with similar loans, especially if you're in America.
The loans are just enormous. And often they're crippling. Then you go into practice and you work and your salary will be nowhere near that of other professionals who have gone to graduate school of the amount of time you've gone to and paying back your loans will be a constant struggle with the reality of the situation.
At least again, in America being that you'll be paying them off for the rest of your professional life.
So I'm fortunate that I don't didn't study in America and I really feel for the people who are facing the situation at the moment. It's not a be-all and end-all, it is manageable. And there are fields of veterinary medicine where you can make reasonable money such as emergency work, or in some situations with horses, you can run your own practice, or you could just maybe be really passionate about what you do and take a different path altogether.
Or you can work a corporate job or in pharmacy. So there are ways to make money, but generally, you'll come out of vet school with high loans, and not a very high salary and not very high earning potential either. So the top salary tends to cap off quite low compared to many, many other professions, and some non-profession.
So, yeah, that's an important thing to remember. I studied in Australia where we have loans as well, but nothing compared to some of the other places, and our loans are also interest-free, which is an important distinction from those in America.
At our loans don't have to be paid off until you start earning over a certain threshold, which I am certainly not at yet. So that's a bonus.
But, I also didn't think it was any trade-off for following your passion. What I think is really important to do, is to try to the best of your ability, make sure that you know, what you're getting into and the way that you can do that is by going and shadowing people whose career you think you might be interested in pursuing. If you want to be a dog and cat vet, go and shadow a dog and cat vet for a certain amount of time.
Shadow a few of them. The more, the better ask them questions. Find mentors, reach out, find me on Instagram and talk to me if you want.
Find the people who look up to and who you think that career might suit you and talk to them about it, make sure that it does suit you before you went to this journey.
Particularly if you're faced with quite high loans. In Australia, if I wanted to turn around tomorrow and leave this area, it will live just cost me four years of my time and not very much in terms of loans. So it's a lot less of a commitment, I suppose, then other people who are potentially entering this field and will come away was unfortunate lifelong debt.
Ling Yah: [01:04:20] And you mentioned this shadowing, which is a very important part of you know the entire career. Which brings me perfectly to the next topic I want to talk about, which is COVID-19. We are recording this in May 2020when you, when most of us are indoors.
How has this entire quarantine and social distancing impacted the wildlife conservation and how do you think it's going to play out in the future where we still have to continue some form of social distancing?
Chloe Buiting: [01:04:49] Negatively, I'd say it's impacted it very negatively. I mean, we've got plenty of case studies of that poaches in South Africa are becoming more ruthless.
There's less rangers and less tourists and less Safari guides around monitoring the animals or interfering with their operations.
So they're now essentially are able to run free and rhino poachings are on the rise.
The same thing in Rwanda with the gorillas sadly, and the same thing in smaller conservation organizations, like little wildlife hospitals that rely on tourists and volunteers to do their important work.
They are unable to travel so they have no income. The same thing with a lot of ecotourism things that again use tourist money to fund the reparations so everyone's suffering at the moment. And it's a really, really challenging time.
In terms of how zoos managing, we currently have a study going in South Africa monitoring the animals' behaviors. And I didn't know what I expected. Like maybe the animals would be more active with less visitors, but the opposite has been happening and they seem to be more subdued in their activity and quieter.
So that's really interesting.
I, for one have been quite surprised about that,
In terms of how are we going to manage going forward? Well, that's an impossible question. I don't know what's going to happen or how they're going to have to move forward with this.
But I think I agree with you. social distancing is going to be here to stay for at least awhile. And I think we're going to have to try and manage online and with adapting and as humans, we are good at adapting. We have to try and find new ways of supporting these organizations.
We've already got drone technology and, and things we're able to do monitoring and deterring poachers from the sky. I mean, people are innovative by nature and I have no idea what the future will look like, but I think that we will be able to come out on top.
Ling Yah: [01:06:40] On your recent posts, now you offer like veterans fellowships or like student fellowship.
Chloe Buiting: [01:06:45] Yeah we do, yeah.
Ling Yah: [01:06:46] So how is that going to work? So the Vets are still going out into the field and working with the animals and you just basically sit at home and watched them.
Chloe Buiting: [01:06:54] Exactly. Yeah. And you can now have one on one mentorship with the vets and follow them and watch other procedures that they do. And you can be taught certain handling and techniques with Skype and Zoom.
So it's certainly a brave new world, but it's the way to get actively involved in the research and the work, still learn from your bedroom and take part. So it's an example of innovation and I think it's going to have a great outcome for the zoo, for the animals and for the students, everyone is opened up.
Ling Yah: [01:07:21] You also have really innovative surgeries happening, like the tocan with the 3D printed beaks.
Chloe Buiting: [01:07:27] Yeah. They're amazing cases, aren't they?
I think three-D printing is going to be a huge one. It already is. animals are having three-D printed prosthetics made for them all the time. And who knows what I've got on the horizon.
Ling Yah: [01:07:40] So we've talked so much about your work. What is your favorite animal? Do you have after meeting all these different wildlife?
Chloe Buiting: [01:07:48] Yeah, that's a tough one. It probably changes to be honest at the moment. It's the koala just because of how much I've worked with them recently.
Ling Yah: [01:07:54] Do you have a random, fun fact that people probably don't know about an animal?
Chloe Buiting: [01:07:59] A random fun fact.
Hippos. They sweat this red like, it looks like blood, but it's just this sweat. So when they're hot in the sun, they'll be covered in this red stuff and it looks really scary. So I'm like, Oh my God, that hippo's bleeding profusely, but yeah, it's just this sweat and it actually has a pigment in it that's like a natural sunscreen. So whenever they're out of the water and it's a hot day, they're secreting this bright red sunscreen essentially to protect their skin from the sun.
Ling Yah: [01:08:29] And is there any animal that you would love to work with?
Chloe Buiting: [01:08:32] Without a doubt, orangutans,
We were supposed to be going over to work in Borneo at the end of last year, but we had a very sad family tragedy, so we were unable to get there.
And then we were supposed to be there now and there's a global pandemic. So hopefully later this year or perhaps even next year, we'll be able to get over to Borneo and work with the orangutans, because I'm really passionate about them. I'm really excited to work with them. I have a huge amount of respect for the veterinarians who do, and please say, stay tuned for what I'm over there because I cannot wait to share the amazing work.
And I think it's such an important story that needs telling as well with all the palm oil plantations and what's going on with deforestation in Borneo, and they're going to be the next animal we lose if we're not
Ling Yah: [01:09:17] What is an everyday life like as a vet?
Yeah, that's a really hard question cause I just do so many different projects, so it depends very much what I'm working on at the moment. I mean, in Australia recently, it looked like waking up at seven, driving out to the hospital and the fire grounds.
Chloe Buiting: [01:09:36] And then working however long it took to get through the hundreds of koalas that needed their bandage changed and the medications are given, and you might get a call that there's a koala up a tree somewhere. And so the darting team will guide and bring that koala in and then assessing that one and then coming home and going back to bed and doing it all again.
In Africa, might look kind of similar but it depends on what you're doing.
If you're moving animals or if you're in a rhino poaching hotspot, it's just so varied and I've designed, I guess my career on purpose like that because I love the variety and I love doing a whole bunch of different things at once and teaching students and traveling and, and working with different animals.
I mean, there is no day that's the same, really. And that's how I like it.
Ling Yah: [01:10:22] And who's the person that inspires you the most?
Chloe Buiting: [01:10:25] Without a doubt, David Attenborough. I mean, he was a frequent visitor to my Island when I was little and he's inspired me with his career as I'm sure everybody else on the planet pretty much.
And I wrote to him when I was in high in a vet school. And I was so excited to get a letter back that it's now framed in my office and I just love his work. I've recently connected with some of the people he works with at flora and fauna international. So they do amazing conservation work around the world.
And I'm excited to talk to them more about that. And he's just been a really calm guiding force in my life.
I look up to him so much. I'm so inspired. So I cannot thank him enough for everything he's done for us.
Ling Yah: [01:11:09] And finally, for us who are not in this field about wanting to support you, what's the best way that we can do so.
Chloe Buiting: [01:11:16] There's so much that you can do to support wildlife conservation.
inIterms of supporting me, the only thing I would ask for is that you support the causes that I'm passionate about, which is making sure that the species that are at risk at the moment still here for future generations to enjoy.
And also for the simple fact that we have no right to be here than they do. So, you can do some fundraising and donate it to your favorite conservation organization. And I have a lot of great ones on my website. You can volunteer with them.
You can visit the zoo, or become a member of the zoo, make sure it's an accredited zoo. You can find out about their projects.
You can also participate in ecotourism. Take an adventure, go on a trip, go see these animals and connect with them in the wild and do it, through ecotourism. So you know that your tourist is going directly to the same thing that supports them.
You can also become an informed shopper. You don't need to go too deep into it. It's not crazy. just do a quick Google search and some of the most harmful products or companies even, and just make informed choices like unsustainable palm oil is one of the biggest reasons that we're losing the forest in Borneo and the orangutans.
So try and stay clear of that. If that's the one thing you do or perhaps the little microbeads. So the little plastic beads in your face scrub.
Try and buy a face scrub that's eco-friendly. So these beads aren't made from plastic because the plastic goes into the ocean and they're tiny. So they get eaten by fish and it changes their hormonal structure and the fish or the whale sharks and no longer able to reproduce the crazy things like that.
Become an advocate for what you care about. Can go crazy and get involved in politics. You can do as little or as much as you want to. There is a role for you and we appreciate each and every one of you. So that's, I guess what I would say. If you wanted to help me try and think about some of those things.
Ling Yah: [01:13:02] Wow. That is definitely a very long list. Thank you for sharing.
To end it, do you feel that you have found your why?
Chloe Buiting: [01:13:10] Yes, I do.
Ling Yah: [01:13:12] What are your hopes for the future and the kind of legacy that you want to leave behind?
Chloe Buiting: [01:13:17] That people can start to live a little bit more harmoniously in nature, and at least start to have a little recognition that we don't have the rights to this planet any more than any other species and that we have to share it rather than keep it for ourselves.
And we have to try and look after it. We're the custodian. So just be conscious of your actions, try and reduce your footprint, try and reduce your waste, try and just become educated about some of the issues facing our planet because they do affect you. Even if you think that it doesn't, I mean, how can losing and Orangutan possibly affect you while it does and you'll find out why in my book, but you will also find out why with a quick Google search.
So I would hope that by the time, my time is up, that people would just be a little bit more respectful and understanding of that point and a little bit more conscious, and that we'd been moving as a society towards a more sustainable future.
Ling Yah: [01:14:11] And final question. What do you think are the most important qualities needed to do what you do?
Chloe Buiting: [01:14:17] I think the most important one is passion.
If you're passionate about what you're doing, you will be able to persevere even when it's tough or when you have your doubts.
So when it's hard, or when you've had an upsetting day, if you're passionate about it, it will give far more back to you, then you can ever give to it.
And it really, really is an incredibly fulfilling feeling, doing something that you love or that you find meaningful. So I'm very glad that I pursued this path is how does it was because it repays me far more than I could ever give to it.
Ling Yah: [01:14:48] Final question. Where can people go to connect with you and find out more about what you're doing?
Chloe Buiting: [01:14:53] The easiest place to connect with me and find out what I'm doing is probably on Instagram at @ jungle_doctor, so jungle underscore doctor.
You can also go to my website, jungledoctor.org. They're probably the two main places on my website. If you subscribe to my newsletter, you'll get all my updates and, please stay change for my book because proceeds will be going to a cause in need, yet to be determined, potentially into my conservation scholarship funds.
So by buying that you can also help support these organizations. And also maybe learn a little bit more about what we've touched on today.
Ling Yah: [01:15:25] Yes. And I'm going to put the links to all of that and also an update for the book when it's available so you can just go to the show notes for this episode and you find everything else.
So thank you so much, Chloe, for this time, it's been so fascinating just hearing your patch.
Chloe Buiting: [01:15:40] Thank you so much for having me. I've loved every minute.
Ling Yah: [01:15:43] And that was episode one of the So This Is My Why podcast.
I hope you enjoyed it. If you have any review, head over to iTunes, Apple Podcasts, or any other platform you're using to let me know.
The show notes for this episode can be found at https://www.sothisismywhy.com/episode1/
And before we end here are the animal sounds again.
that was a koala. And here's the next one.
And that was a lion. Did you get it right? I know I didn't.
Stay tuned for the next episode, which will be released in two days. Where we talk to a Malaysian artist whose viral video, catapults her to start them, how she first found her footing in the international art world, how she found her identity as an artist who paints without a paintbrush and the kind of meaning she wants her future works to hold.
It's going to be a great end. Inspiring one.
See you next time.