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New intern starts at CROW

By Staff | Jan 17, 2018

Dr. Malka Spektor is the new veterinarian intern at CROW. BRIAN BOHLMAN

As a young girl, the new CROW veterinarian intern always loved being out in nature, seeing wildlife in its natural settings.

“I was one of the kids who read ‘National Geographic’ kids magazines and learned about all of the conservation efforts,” Dr. Malka Spektor said. “I have always been passionate about conservation and helping protect our natural environment and animals that live there.”

Spektor, who started at the Clinic for the Rehabilitation of Wildlife on Jan. 1, said she heard about the organization from working in wildlife hospitals for a while.

“It’s kind of a small world, wildlife rehabilitation, so I kind of heard about it,” she said.

Last year Spektor attended the NAVC conference, where CROW hospital Director Dr. Heather Barron spoke about brevetoxicosis – a result of red tide – and the organization. With wanting to get back into wildlife rehabilitation, she decided to apply to CROW and was accepted.

CROW veterinarian intern Dr. Malka Spektor removes fishing line from the flipper of a green sea turtle during her first week at the hospital. BRIAN BOHLMAN

“I am so excited to be there. It is an amazing opportunity,” she said.

Spektor grew up in Los Angeles and attended veterinarian school at the University of Illinois. From there, she spent a year and a half in St. Louis working with small animals and exotics.

“While I was in veterinarian school, I was really involved in the wildlife medical clinic that we had as part of the vet school,” she said. “I also did an externship at the Israeli Wildlife Hospital.”

While in school, Spektor also worked at the Central Park Zoo, Lion Country Safari and a wildlife preserve where endangered species were bred and released. Her work at the Central Park Zoo gave her the opportunity to work alongside veterinarians to make sure the collection of animals were healthy. Spektor worked with such animals as birds, leopards, sea lions and goats.

She said Central Park Zoo is part of a conservation society, which taught her how zoos can contribute to the conservation efforts. Lion Country Safari, located in West Palm Beach, also allowed her to work with a veterinarian.

“The cool thing about that is they had a lot of animals in a big open area, so it was a little bit more natural for them,” Spektor said. “They get room to roam around in. The medicine was a little bit more challenging there because they weren’t habituated to people, so anytime we had to do anything we had to immobilize them. So, learning how to be a part of that process was really interesting.”

The preserve afforded her with the opportunity to work with antelope that were native to the area and ostriches that were endangered in the area. Her work in the desert started early in the morning with caring for the animals. Spektor said she was also in charge of taking care of a population of endangered tortoises.

“We had a special breeding suite for them. We took the adults into a room for nesting and trying to make optical conditions for them,” she said. “We had a few that came in that were caught in the airport from someone smuggling them.”

Spektor said she is really thankful for all of the wonderful staff she has had the opportunity to work with, allowing her to get this far in her career.

“I’m really excited for everything CROW has to offer,” she said.

Over the coming year, Spektor is looking forward to working with the amazing people, as well as helping to save animals. She said she is looking forward to “being a part of research that will help support conservation and endangered species.”

An animal that she hopes to work with are alligators because she finds them interesting.

“It would be cool to get to work with one of those,” she said.

At the end of her first week, she had the opportunity to work with lots of animals.

“This week has been pretty great. I have had lots of opportunities to work with a bunch of different species,” Spektor said.

The afternoon of Jan. 5, she was on her way to Mote Marine to drop off a green sea turtle that was found with fibropapillomatosis – tumors turtles can get – which are contagious to other sea turtles. She said the transfer was done because there are only certain facilities that can house them longterm.

“We don’t have the double facilities for regular sea turtles and ones with fibropapillomatosis, as well,” Spektor said. “We do send those turtles to facilities that can handle them, so we don’t get any other sea turtles infected.”

A few years ago, she helped a friend who was working with a sea turtle conservation group mark nests and count egg shells after hatching. This, however, was Spektor’s first time working with an adult sea turtle.

“It was amazing. It was sad because she came in wrapped in fishing line. It’s sad to see the kind of damage that humans can cause,” she said. “But, they are very graceful and majestic. It’s exciting to be able to get her back out into the wild.”

Spektor hopes to get more confident in surgical skills, specifically orthopedic surgery.

“I hope to feel like I would be able to come up with a good plan for any animal to get them back into the wild with as little stress as possible,” she said.

After her internship concludes, Spektor hopes to work in a wildlife hospital doing similar work to what she will be doing this year – helping keep wildlife wild.