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A photo collage of Dr Evan Antin in the wilderness

Lifestyle

Dr. Evan Antin shares: how travels abroad impact his vet practice

From naming a famous baby gorilla to hanging with sharks, Dr. Evan Antin has lots of stories to tell.

Whether it’s a sun-filled vacation, a study abroad or mission-driven work, you’ll likely bring a piece of those travels home with you. 

That’s how Dr. Evan Antin, a practicing small animal, exotics and wildlife veterinarian at Conejo Valley Veterinary Hospital and member of Fetch by The Dodo’s Veterinary Advisory Board, feels. He’s been to over 40 countries, spending his time with wildlife and local veterinarians. 

And when Dr. Antin returns to the U.S., he uses the lessons he learned abroad to inform his practices here. Keep reading to discover how his international travels have informed his work — plus insight into his next trip that may or may not involve sharks. 

You're always on the move. How many countries have you been to, and do you have any favorites? 

I think 45 or more countries. I can’t pick a favorite. A lot of countries have something uniquely special. I’ll share a few, though. Indonesia is phenomenal for its rugged jungle and wildlife, gorgeous reptiles and birds, tons of primate species, incredible diving and beaches, too. 

The Pantanal in Brazil is one of my favorite places in the world. The biodiversity there is wild. Rwanda is incredible, too. In just a few hours' drive, you can see mountain gorillas in the forest and then see all of your favorite iconic African wildlife on the other side of this tiny country. 

South Africa is super special, too, with so much diversity in landscape and some of the best safari and wildlife in the world. I love Central America, Australia and so many other places, though.

How do you support animals when you’re on your international travels? 

If possible, I try to volunteer my time at wildlife rehab centers or rescues if they need a hand. Having a platform has also been extremely beneficial for me to help wildlife or habitats by raising awareness for their challenges. 

If I publicly promote a conservation organization or even a wildlife rescue, they’re usually people or places I’ve worked with personally, and I know people’s hard-earned donations will go to actually help the habitats and animals that need it. 

Is it true that you’ve shaved rhino horns to protect them from poachers?

The rhino are unique in that the most “valued” part of their body is one that is non-living tissue and also doesn’t severely adversely affect them when it’s removed. The same can’t be said for elephant tusks, shark fins, pangolin scales, tiger teeth and claws, bear bile and more.

What was it like being chosen to name a baby gorilla at the Kwita Izina ceremony in Rwanda? How does that ceremony benefit animals and the community? 

It was beyond an honor. Kwita Izina is the biggest in-person conservation celebration I’m aware of. I estimate 40,000 or more people were present when I spoke in front of them, naming baby “Igichumbe.” 

Rwanda makes substantial efforts to engage its people in conserving their habitats and wildlife, especially local communities along the gorilla’s habitats. When it comes to truly sustainable wildlife conservation, one of the most important components is involving the local communities. 

If the communities benefit more from utilizing the resources of the land, including the animals, they will. Just like us, we just do it indirectly and buy our things in stores. However, if the communities benefit more with wild habitats and animals being intact, then the likelihood of sustaining these natural locations and inhabitants is much higher. 

These places can potentially provide jobs, government support, rotational grazing for domesticated animals, sustainable small-scale cultivation and more.

Do you have a favorite wildlife adventure so far? If so, could you please describe it? 

One of my favorites ever was diving with tiger sharks in the Bahamas. I don’t feed them, but we have a closed-bait crate, and the smell intrigues the sharks. So I just sit on the sandbar and make sure tiger sharks, as well as lemon, reef, nurse and some bull sharks, don’t bump into me. 

So I’m basically just redirecting 700-to-800-pound mega-carnivores with my hands, and I can’t express enough how much I love doing that. It’s the wildest thing ever. You can’t do this with any other wild mega-carnivore. Big cats, bears, large crocodile species — no way. 

RELATED: Dr. Evan Antin shares: Eastern vs. Western pet medicine

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Do your international travels with wildlife influence your veterinary practices in the U.S.? If so, can you please explain how? 

Yes, I often learn neat tips and tricks from other vets and try to share things with them, too. It’s very humbling to do veterinary work in the field or low-funded wildlife rescue when your day job is at a modern, well-equipped vet hospital near Los Angeles. 

These experiences remind me how much you can learn with little technology available, and they’re great places to sharpen your clinical mind and skills. 

Have you connected with veterinarians through your travels, and how have they influenced you? 

Yes, tons. The veterinary world is small, and the wildlife veterinary world is tiny. At this point, I’d be surprised if I’m more than a 2-degree separation from most wildlife vets in the world, and not because of me, but because of many of the highly skilled and respected vets I've had the opportunity to meet and work with. 

Vets from other countries have introduced me to opportunities and connected me with colleagues, and it’s one of the coolest aspects of the profession. 

Could you please share any life lessons you’ve learned from your travels? 

Perspective. I lived in Northern Tanzania for a semester during my undergrad education. To this day, I still appreciate the temperature-controlled and safe-to-drink water I have on tap in several rooms inside my house. I’m sure you can imagine all the other luxuries we’re very lucky to have. 

Also, patriotism. I know it’s probably the worst time to say this these days. America is far from perfect. But here’s the thing: When you see the travesties that other governments get away with, trust me, you’re very happy and relieved to come home as an American. 

I love visiting so many places, but I haven’t found one I would want to leave here to live in. 

Do you have any tips for veterinarians or animal lovers who want to travel to areas with wildlife? 

Yes, be proactive. Reach out to wildlife rescues. I was doing that before wifi was much more common, and I often just had to show up at the door hoping I could help out and get some neat experience. A lot of rescues have limited wifi still, but it’s easier to reach out these days — and many have social media, too. 

Do you have any exciting trips coming up? 

I’m trying to plan another tiger shark dive at this moment. Wish me luck.

The Dig, Fetch by The Dodo’s expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too. Fetch provides the most comprehensive pet insurance and is the only provider recommended by the #1 animal brand in the world, The Dodo. 

Image source: @drevanantin Instagram

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