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New Professor Raising Animal Awareness

2 May 2005

New professor raising animal awareness

Companion and zoo animal welfare research has a relatively low profile in New Zealand, but a new Unitec professor is planning on changing that.

Professor Natalie Waran joined the School of Natural Sciences this year after a high-profile tenure at Edinburgh University, where she was involved in research on a range of issues affecting domestic pets, horses and zoo animals.

The number of professors of animal welfare is relatively low, with no more than 10 such positions worldwide. Professor Waran says that coming to Unitec was an opportunity to help develop the research culture in the institution’s animal health and welfare programmes, and raise the profile of the discipline in New Zealand.

With the first cohort of students from Unitec’s Bachelor of Applied Animal Technology now in their final year, she says, the timing is perfect. “This is the first year we have level seven students in the programme and they will be helping to do preliminary work for future research, such as looking at ways to better assess pain in cats and dogs.

“Animal welfare is an applied topic and the research will inform the students’ practice in the workplace.”

While there are New Zealand academics doing research on animal-related topics, Professor Waran says their focus has traditionally been on the farming sector.

“New Zealanders own a lot of companion animals, yet we know a lot more about the needs of chickens than cats, for instance. The research is usually aimed at the areas of animal welfare that have commercial implications.”

Professor Waran is supervising a group of PhD students based at Edinburgh University and she says that their research will help to inform the projects that she plans on carrying out in New Zealand.

“I will be presenting some of their research at conferences this year and it will have implications for our work in New Zealand. For instance, the PhD students in the UK are carrying out ongoing research into children’s awareness of dog behaviour. The research will help to find more effective ways of educating children on how to avoid being bitten, which is very relevant in New Zealand, as in the rest of the world.”


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