As a part of our “Where Are They Now?” series, we had an e-interview with Amber Dedrick, who was a staff wildlife rehabilitator at the Center from 2011 – 2014.
What have you done professionally since leaving the Wildlife Center?
Amber: Since my time at the Wildlife Center, I have been taking care of a collection of (currently) 26 cheetahs with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI). [Editor's note: This is where education American Crow Jaz lived prior to coming to the Center!]
What’s your current position/organization?
What do you do in your current job with regard to wildlife?
Amber: SCBI is part of the National Zoo. Unlike the National Zoo, SCBI focuses on breeding endangered species and is not open to the public. There is a lot of other work going on at SCBI, including research to learn more about the biology and reproductive physiology of not only the endangered species in our care, but also other conservation efforts globally. In my day- to- day work, we try to breed cheetahs naturally which can involve a lot of animal observations on our part. A big part of my day includes cheetah feeding, care, and training.
How did your experience at the Wildlife Center of Virginia help you prepare for or influence your career?
Amber: My time at the Wildlife Center helped me refine my “quick observation” skills. As a wildlife rehabilitator, you don’t have a lot of extra time to observe your animals, but I learned how to do a quick visual assessment of the animals, which I definitely apply here frequently. Though I’d love to watch each of my 26 individual cheetahs for a certain amount of time, that’s just not always possible.
I also had a lot of great animal handling experience from wildlife rehabilitation that I use at SCBI, particularly during cheetah cub exams. I do get to exercise my wild animal wrangling from time to time, like when we have an opossum that needs to be relocated away from the cheetahs!
I also got a lot of enjoyment out of putting together a patient enrichment program at the Wildlife Center, and I do get to continue that sort of work here. We have a lot of fun enrichment for the cats, but a lot of our time goes to training our cheetahs to participate in their own health care (wouldn’t that make wildlife rehab easier?!). I think back fondly on my time working with Buttercup the Black Vulture to encourage him to stand on a scale. Currently, we are working with many of our cats to allow voluntary tail blood draws, to accept vaccines, to allow awake radiographs to help determine pregnancy, and more.
Based on your life and professional experiences, what advice would you give students or young professionals interested in wildlife medicine, conservation medicine, or wildlife rehabilitation?
Amber: Get at much and as varied experience as you can! If you are able to do any internships, those are particularly helpful. Also, both the zoo and wildlife rehab communities are small so networking skills are very important.
Amber in the news: