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.
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
When: Oct. 29-Nov. 4
Elephants and Cheetahs in South Africa
When: Sept. 27-Oct. 10
Wildlife and Photography in Tanzania
When: July 3-14
Walleye Fishing in Ohio
When: May 14-17
See Sealife in Mexico
When: Sept. 26-Oct. 3
“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.”
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