I had the amazing opportunity to join forces with Dr. Jamie Peyton and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to work on three animals, two bears, and one mountain lion, all were badly burned in the Thomas Fire in Southern California. You may have seen the detailed news articles that describe the work Dr. Peyton and the CDFW have been doing published by TIME and National Geographic. I strongly recommend checking these articles out, if you haven’t already.
Using tilapia fish skin as bandages, Dr. Peyton was able to create a barrier on the burned feet of the bears and mountain lion to aid in healing and pain management. There is great benefit to therapeutic strategies like tilapia skin for treating wild animals. Unlike domestic or companion animal patients, it is difficult to complete daily bandage changes on wildlife. Therefore, Dr. Peyton had to devise a way to treat their injuries while respecting their undomesticated nature. Similarly, using a synthetic bandage pad like we would in domesticated species could pose more of a risk if the animals were to try to eat the bandages off. Therefore, tilapia skin can be used as a natural alternative that adhered to the wound and would not pose any harm if eaten.
When the animals arrived at the CDFW, they were in great amounts of pain and could barely walk. With the assistance of Dr. Peyton and the spectacular CDFW veterinarians and staff, these animals were given a chance to heal and have their pain controlled. Their wounds were extremely severe and it was thought that they would take at least six months to heal. Much to everyone’s surprise, the tilapia skin bandages, pain management, and dedicated treatment helped them recover in around a month and a half.
This wonderful outcome proves the power of dedicated individuals who come together and share their expertise to help those in need. I could not be more proud of Dr. Peyton, the UC Davis team and the CDFW and am so honored to have been able to help out. I am inspired by the individuals I was able to work alongside because when they encountered a challenge, they did not shy away and stick to what they knew. Instead, they thought outside of the box and created an end result that exceeded everyone’s expectations. It is my goal to use this experience as an example to continue to push the limits of what I know and work to improve the world around me.