Lions And Penguins And Bears: Oh My, The CE Experiences

Lions and Penguins and Bears: Oh My, the CE ExperiencesLions and Penguins and Bears: Oh My, the CE Experiences04-06-2009cover stories, smlanimalBy Dennis Arp



Once Carol Walton, DVM, gets rolling, the stories trundle from her memory with all the vibrant color of a Kalahari sunset. 

There’s the time she and her adventure-travel clients hunkered in a Botswana clearing as a leopard descended from a tree, then quickly realized he was in the path of approaching lions.

“We were terrified the lions would rip the leopard apart right in front of us,” Dr. Walton recalls.

Instead, the leopard slipped unseen into the marshy grass of a palm island as the lions plopped down in the shade of the same tree, not 15 feet from where he now hid. The visitors enjoyed a clear view as the leopard sat motionless for a while, then slunk silently away, disappearing into the safety of a nearby thicket.

Adventure Time

Looking for one or more of those veterinary travel opportunities? Below are a few you might want to consider. Except where noted, prices are per person, double occupancy, and don’t include airfare to the starting point.

Polar Bears in Canada
The biology of arctic wildlife and the effects of global warming on polar bears will be among the topics during the NAVC expedition in Churchill, on the Western shore of Hudson Bay. Participants will go dog-sledding as well as ride tundra buggies to see the bears. Lectures by Douglas Mader, MS, DVM, Dipl. ABVP, will complement the commentary of Dr. Carol Walton. Twenty-four hours of RACE-approved veterinary CE are available.

When: Oct. 29-Nov. 4
Cost: $5,495
More info:  
Other travel opportunities: Latin American Veterinary Conference, Oct. 16-19 in Lima, Peru; Southern European Veterinary Conference, Oct. 2-4 in Barcelona, Spain

Elephants and Cheetahs in South Africa
Participants will interact with researchers, ecologists and veterinarians as well as enjoy traditional wildlife viewing activities during this safari. Veterinarians Robert M. Miller, Peter Brothers and Alice Villalobos, a Veterinary Practice News columnist, will offer behind-the-scenes tours of the DeWildt Cheetah Lodge and the Elephant Sanctuary near Hartebeespoort Dam, where visitors will assist with the morning brush down and exercise. Game viewing may include lions, giraffes, zebras and rhinos, plus a chance to swim with dolphins or whales in the UNESCO marine reserve.

When: Sept. 27-Oct. 10
Cost: 24,750 South African Rand (about $2,600)
More info:  
Other upcoming destinations: Machu Pichu and the Galapagos

Wildlife and Photography in Tanzania
Carl Palazzolo, DVM, for years has been leading trips that mix wildlife viewing and education with photography workshops. This trip to Tanzania will feature journeys in the Tarangire and Serengeti national parks—home to lions, gazelle, leopards and elephants, among other animals—and the Ngorongoro Crater, where baboons and flamingoes are prevalent. Participants go home with their own Web page, on which Dr. Palazzolo sets up a slide show of their photos. “I bring about $25,000 worth of photo equipment,” says the veterinarian, of Long Beach Animal Hospital in California. “I want people not only to have a good time and bring back great photos but to learn about a great place and a different culture.”

When: July 3-14
Cost: $6,000, not including air fare
More info: and click on the digital photography link
Possible upcoming trips: Galapagos, Ecuador

Walleye Fishing in Ohio
For the past 14 years, equine veterinarians have gathered in Port Clinton, Ohio, to attend educational seminars and test their skill in the “Walleye Capital of the World.” “You know how in Time Square they drop a ball on New Year’s Eve?” says Ron Fuller, DVM, who helps organize the Lake Erie Seminars event. “Well, in Port Clinton, they drop a walleye.” This year, the learning focus will be on tumor removal, and Dr. Fuller hopes he and attendees can enjoy a repeat of the day when the group caught 52 pounds of walleye. “We had enough to feed the whole hotel,” he recalls.

When: May 14-17
Cost: Varies by activity
More info:    
Upcoming events: CE seminar at the Hambletonian Festival of Racing, Meadowlands Racetrack, N.J., Aug. 6-8 (; Seminar in conjunction with the World Cup horse race in Dubai in 2010

See Sealife in Mexico
The Society for Aquatic Veterinary Medicine organizes continuing education trips for veterinarians that include scuba diving in exotic locations. Past destinations included the Caribbean, Fiji, Borneo, Philippines and Australia. The trip to La Paz, Mexico, will feature four days of diving in waters frequented by hammerheads, morays, mantas, dolphins and whale sharks.

When: Sept. 26-Oct. 3
Cost: $1,800 includes air fare from Los Angeles. Taxes extra
More info:

“That,” Walton says, “was a Discovery Channel moment.”

One of many for the well-traveled adventurer, who has brushed shoulders with a charging silverback gorilla, welcomed to her lap an Antarctic visit from a baby elephant seal and gone nose to wet nose with a curious pinniped on a beach in the Galapagos.

“You haven’t lived till you’ve been whiskered by a sea lion,” Walton says, laughing.

Sharing her affinity for wild places with animal lovers of all stripes has been a passion for Walton ever since she traded in her veterinary existence more than a decade ago. Now she’s found a way to bridge her professional lives.

Walton is leading trips that mix travel to exotic locales with continuing education sponsored by the North American Veterinary Conference. The  NAVC’s next CE trip will feature close-up views of polar bears outside Churchill, Manitoba, where Walton will be front and center in the tundra buggy, offering insights and answering questions.

Spirit of Exploration
Stephen L. Barten, DVM, will be in Churchill for the fall expedition, after attending the NAVC’s first CE-wild animal trip – to Antarctica in 2008.

As such education opportunities grow in popularity and prevalence, Drs. Walton and Barten exemplify the spirit of exploration that this year will predominate from the great white north of Canada to the Magaliesburg Mountains of South Africa.

For Walton, a love of the wild life began as a child growing up on the fringe of the rainforest in the Panama Canal Zone. She realized her animal health-care dream when she graduated from the Louisiana State University veterinary school in 1987 and practiced for five years before helping to build an avian research station in Ecuador in 1993.

After moving back to the U.S. in 1999, she returned to the rainforest as the owner and trip leader of a tour company. A joyous connection to the animals of the wild has gripped her ever since.

Spending 11 months a year shuttling from Africa and the Galapagos to Antarctica and the Amazon has yielded incomparable experiences as well as a fair amount of challenges.

“There was a time when if I woke up in the middle of the night, I wasn’t sure what continent I was on or whether I was on a ship or a plane,” Walton says. “But these experiences never get old.”

She recalls riding in a motorized canoe on the Tiputini River in Ecuador several years ago when she excitedly pointed to a ringed kingfisher on the river’s edge. A fellow traveler asked how many times she’d seen such a bird, and she answered, “Thousands.”
The client wondered how something she’s seen so many times before could get her so enthused.

“That might seem weird to some,” Walton says, “but when you have a passion for something, that enthusiasm doesn’t go away.”

Permanent Memories
For Barten, a love for animals and adventure feed into his affinity for photography. A getaway clicks for him when he learns new things about his profession, his hobby and himself. And when a trip gives him the chance to do things like cage-dive with great white sharks in the Pacific Ocean, it’s off the charts.

“When you see all the different ecosystems and you see how animals interact, it helps you appreciate our little role in the environment,” says Barten, of Vernon Hills Animal Hospital in Mundelein, Ill.

Continuing education is fine at a convention hotel, he adds, but it’s more energizing when there’s more to share.

“Life is made better by great experiences,” Barten notes. “Those opportunities are more fun when you’re doing what you love alongside people with whom you have so much in common.” <HOME>

Once Carol Walton, DVM, gets rolling, the stories trundle from her memory with all the vibrant color of a Kalahari sunset. Once Carol Walton, DVM, gets rolling, the stories trundle from her memory with all the vibrant color of a Kalahari sunset. advenure, travel, penguins, leopard, lions, NAVC, Galapagos, Antarctica, Walton, veterinary

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