Summer exchange to Hokkaido University, Japan

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The Royal (Dick) Veterinary School has long-lasting link with the Hokkaido Vet School. I was very lucky to be chosen to attend this student exchange program. This program was focusing on conservation medicine in wildlife. As a vet student, I always really interested in wildlife management and conservation. Through this exchange program, I was amazed by the effort they put in to conserve the wildlife in Hokkaido. Blakiston’s fish owl, Stellar’s sea eagle and white tail sea eagle are endangered species in Hokkaido. The population of these raptors declined due to decrease in food source and their natural habitat. The local government had been trying their best in conserving these endangered species by installing artificial bird nest for Blakiston’s fish owl and educating the younger generation about the conservation of these animals.

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Artificial bird nest for Blakiston’s fish owl

Besides, I also visited Shiretoko Nature Centre where I attended a lecture about human conflicts with brown bear and sika deer in Hokkaido and management of these animals. In Hokkaido, the intrusion of brown bears and sika deer into residential area and crop field would probably be the current main concern of the local government. To prevent the intrusion of the brown bear, the local government made electrical fence to surround the town to protect the people. I also learned the tips to avoid encounter of bears in the wild such as do not eat food or feed the wildlife because the bears are really sensitive to smell.

Overpopulation of sika deer has become concerning issue in Hokkaido. Therefore, the local government allows deer hunting in Hokkaido. During my trip to Shibetsu, I managed to follow the hunter for deer hunting. However, due to the bad weather, they only caught the deer from the snap trap. We also did post-mortem on the deer that we caught. I managed to practise my dissection skills and revise the anatomy of ruminant. This was my first time doing post-mortem on a deer. It was really good and unforgettable experience!

Moreover, I also attended the joint conference on conservation medicine of University of Edinburgh, University of Wiscosin and Hokkaido University. This conference engaged both the professors and students from Hokkaido and Edinburgh. I get to expand my knowledge base about the current wildlife issues happening in the UK, Japan and North America. A lot of interesting topics were discussed among students and professors.

I was worried about the typhoon hitting Hokkaido. Due to the typhoon, some of our planned schedule had to be cancelled such as kayaking and seal watching. Besides that, I was concerning about the language barrier between me and the Japanese. However, it did not turn out too bad. Some of them can actually speak really good English. In fact, sign language was always the alternative if we could not understand them. I managed to learn some phrases in Japanese and in turn I also taught them some Chinese words.

I really enjoyed my time in Hokkaido, meeting new friends and learning their culture. This summer exchange to Japan probably would be my best trip ever in my life.

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Erimo cape (unfortunately due to the bad weather, we were not able to see the harbour seal)

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Shiretoko National Park

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Beautiful sunset in Syari

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Arashiyama Zoo

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