Gorilla Doctors is excited to introduce our new Regional Manager, Dr. Joost Philippa! Dr. Joost and his new bride, Arum, as well as their two rescued cats, Lucky and Coconut, arrived to our Regional Headquarters in Musanze this weekend and are getting settled in and meeting the team this week.

Gorilla Doctors new Regional manager, Dr. Joost Philippa and his wife Arum.

Gorilla Doctors new Regional manager, Dr. Joost Philippa and his wife Arum.

Dr. Joost is not only an experienced wildlife veterinarian, he also has a PhD in Virology and brings a wealth of knowledge and field experience to the Gorilla Doctors team. Dr. Joost has lived in Southeast Asia for the past ten years, conducting field work and research on migratory birds, elephants, buffalo, reptiles, and various primates, including macaques, langurs, lorises and orangutans. He served as the Veterinary Advisor for the Borneo Orangutan Survival foundation for three years, overseeing the health of 630 rescued orangutans. (The organization has successfully rehabilitated and released more than 100 orangutans back into the wild.)

Dr. Joost conducts training session.

Dr. Joost conducts a training session for International Animal Rescue on collecting samples for Tuberculosis testing on a rescued orangutan.

Simultaneously, he managed the Zoonotic Disease program for Oxford University in Jakarta, Indonesia before moving to Vietnam to take up his post as the Senior Veterinary Surgeon for Animals Asia. Animals Asia rescues Asiatic black bears from farms, where they are kept to extract bile for traditional medicine. In this position, Dr. Joost managed the veterinary care for 132 rescued bears at the centre, ran the small animal clinic, worked on outreach projects and in animal welfare education.

“I think that my experience in southeast Asia has prepared me well for the Gorilla Doctors Regional Manager position” said Dr. Joost. “I’ve spent prolonged periods living and working in the forest with my team, treated and taken care of numerous primate species, worked in several rescue centres, trained students, vets and biologists in the field, and I have a background in virology and zoo medicine.”

Having grown up in Zimbabwe, Joost was eager to get back to Africa. At the young age of 11, he began helping out at a small animal veterinary clinic every day after school. “The combination of growing up in Zimbabwe and helping in the vet clinic shaped me in a very big way. I knew I wanted to be a vet from age 5, but after Zimbabwe I knew I wanted to work with wildlife.”

Born in Holland and graduating from high school in Greece, Joost moved back to the Netherlands to study veterinary medicine at Utrecht University, where he completed a thesis on antibodies to viral diseases in Canadian carnivores and marine mammals. He spent five years working at the Rotterdam Zoo and completing a PhD in vaccination in non-domestic animals at the virology department at Erasmus University. Following this, he traveled to Thailand to spend a year studying virus diseases in gibbons and assisting in a rehabilitation center for primates and bears.

Dr. Joost examines a rescued bear while working with Animals Asia.

Dr. Joost examines a bear rescued from a bile farm while working with Animals Asia.

With his extensive experience, Dr. Joost says he hopes to create a dialogue between Indonesian orangutan veterinarians and Africa’s Gorilla Doctors. “I hope that experiences can be shared and lessons can be learnt from those experiences in two groups of highly motivated vets working under very similar circumstances, just on a different continent with a different species of great ape.”

And, keeping with the Gorilla Doctors priority to mentor aspiring wildlife veterinarians, Dr. Joost also supervises a post-graduate veterinary student at Cambridge University.

“I have always longed to go back to Africa” said Dr. Joost. After graduating, at the first zoo vet conference I attended, I learned about Gorilla Doctors and knew that was what I wanted to do. Since then, I have gained all the necessary knowledge and experience, and I am extremely proud and thrilled that I am now officially a Gorilla Doctor!”

Welcome to the team, Dr. Joost!