Today, we introduce Dr. Michael Briggs, Doctor of Veterinarian Medicine, who is the consulting vet for Marine Life Park. He works closely with our in-house vets to share his wealth of experience gained from decades of working in the industry. His career began in 1984 after his graduation from Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. He spent 20 years both as a staff and an associate veterinarian at major U.S. zoological facilities. This included treating animals such as lions and leopards in the African savannahs, consulting for marine mammal organizations and assisting in the development and implementation of husbandry and medical practices for a variety of facilities around the world.
Dr. Briggs tells us more about his experience in the veterinary field including what it takes to ensure the best health of our marine mammals.
What is your role at Marine Life Park?
My role at Marine Life Park is the consulting vet and in doing so, I am an advisor to the group and specifically to the head veterinarian. I am using my years of experience to help guide marine animal medicine and serve as a resource along the way. My extensive web of connections of people from Beijing, Miami and around the world is also useful to ensure that Marine Life Park will be a globally recognized organization of diverse animal specialists.
What does it take to be a veterinarian?
First of all, you’ve got to have a big passion for whatever animals you want to work with, in this case, marine mammals. You have to complete veterinary school; depending which country you are from, could take a minimum of 8 years of schooling, as is the case in the U.S. That eight years include graduate school and veterinary school. It also involves getting hands-on experiences such as internships, residencies at a zoological facility and preceptorships, so you get an idea of what is involved in working with the sort of species you’re interested in.
How did you start out as a veterinarian? Were you always focused on marine life?
Well, I’d say yes. When I went to veterinary school in Washington State University in Western USA, I worked between semesters at an oceanarium in California. I started doing marine mammal work and found it quite rewarding and got a feel of what it is like to work with these animals, and I liked it! As soon as I graduated, I went to work in wildlife medicine instead of doing traditional treatments on domestic animals such as dogs, cats or cows and horses. Later on, I became associate veterinarian at the Chicago Zoological Society, where I worked with dolphins extensively. From that point, I started to work all over the world both for facilities and consulting, which is what I do now: marine mammal consultation.
While marine mammals are a major part of my career, I have also spent many years in conservation work specifically in Southern Africa. I have an NGO, African Predator Conservation Research Organization, which works specifically with the carnivores. We focus on lions, leopards, hyenas, cheetahs and African wild dogs. These animals need intense study in order to help them survive. When I am not working with marine mammals and marine fishes, I’m out in the savannah and bush of Africa.
Will you just be just working with our marine mammals?
My work at MLP is focused on the dolphins right now, which are great fun, but ultimately I will be involved in working with the entire animal collection.
I hate to say it but I’ve been working since 1987! But I never get tired of conservation and marine veterinary work. I hope to bring my experiences to Singapore and help make this a super success both in world class animal health and conservation.
Do you have what it takes to be a vet? Let us know what you think of this interview.