Teaching & Learning

Jan Ramer DVM ’95

Welcome to the Jungle

Jan Ramer

Photo Courtesy © Gorilla Doctors/gorilladoctors.org

The sun rises over the nine-thousand-acre expanse. Herds of sable antelope, southern white rhinos, and giraffes roam freely. Somewhere, a newborn Sichuan takin learns to walk. It’s another beautiful day in … Cumberland, Ohio.

This is the Wilds, a fourteen-square-mile safari park and conservation center smack-dab between Columbus, Ohio, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It’s home to thirty-one rare and endangered species. It’s also where Jan Ramer DVM’95, the Wilds’ director of conservation medicine, goes to work every day.

“It’s first and foremost a conservation and research center,” says Ramer. “It’s also a drive-through safari park. You can go on safari drives right through the pastures and have camels, giraffes, and rhinos come right up to the truck, just like you would in Africa.”

And if anyone knows what it’s like to interact with wildlife in Africa, it’s Ramer. Before joining the Wilds, she regularly made six-hour hikes through rainforests in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda to care for sick and wounded mountain gorillas, a subspecies of eastern gorillas. For two two-year periods (broken up briefly by a stateside job at the Indianapolis Zoo), Ramer worked as the regional veterinary manager for Gorilla Doctors, an international nonprofit dedicated to the conservation of Africa’s critically endangered mountain-gorilla population. That habituated species is the only great ape population that is currently increasing — thanks, in part, to Gorilla Doctors.

“Gorilla Doctors makes a difference and is really contributing to the conservation of eastern gorillas in the wild,” Ramer says. “It felt good to be on the cutting edge of conservation in that way, with such a wonderful team.”

Ramer has always wanted to focus on zoo and wildlife work, particularly nondomestic medicine. “The Wisconsin [School of Veterinary Medicine] was really great about offering extracurricular opportunities and allowing me to go off campus to seek experiences in nondomestic species,” she says.

Even though Ramer completed her undergraduate degree at Purdue, she is a Badger at heart. As a child, she went to summer camps near Eagle River. She and a group of Madison friends reconnect to go camping on Rock Island each year. And she’s made it back to campus to speak at the veterinary school.

“There’s something about the UW and about Madison that makes people want to stay — and stay in touch,” she says.

Published in the Fall 2015 issue


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