Data collection, dissemination, and interpretation for wildlife that are collected from natural disasters or confiscated and that are sent to multiple institutions in multiple countries can be a daunting task. Creation of an online database system to collect data on medical management antemortem and postmortem would provide a useful means for maintaining proper records. In January 2002, approximately 7500 turtles were confiscated in Hong Kong, sent to a central location in the United States (Florida), processed and examined, and then sent to various public and private institutions throughout the country. A Microsoft Access® database was established and a web-based form developed to allow for data entry of physical exam findings, treatments, procedures, microbiology, parasitology, and necropsy findings. Furthermore, the system allows for searching data and exporting to programs such as Microsoft Excel® for data analysis. A system such as this would enhance not only future turtle rescue endeavors, but also those of other wildlife species that require animal dissemination including natural and manmade disasters (e.g., oil spills).
The advent of computer programs such as MedARKS have provided a means of data collection and dissemination for zoological parks. However, a method for collecting, analyzing, interpreting, and disseminating data for wildlife species in which animals are distributed to multiple institutions for short- to long-term treatment that can be utilized by all individuals involved have not been available. Designing a program such as this requires: 1) availability to the majority of individuals involved and 2) ease of interfacing with the database environment so that adding and searching information can be done. Database programs provide the best means of collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data as opposed to spread sheets which can be difficult to sort through.
In January 2002, approximately 4300 illegally caught turtles intended for food, aphrodisiac, and medicinal purposes were confiscated in Hong Kong and transported to Florida and Europe for triage and medical treatment for capture and transport related conditions. After this initial processing, turtles were sent to various public and private institutions throughout the United States for further medical treatment. In order to provide a means of collecting data on individual animals including: physical examination findings; procedures; clinical and hematologic analyses; treatment modalities; microbiology and parasitology findings; and finally, gross and histologic findings; a web-based program was developed that could allow ease of data entry, searchability, and exportation functions.
Microsoft Access® was utilized to establish various data entry parameters by creating tables with individual fields. Once, these tables were created, field relationships were established linking all parameters, and thus, creating a means of searching the data. The tables included basic turtle information (animal number, species, triage date, body score, body marking [notch, hole], and death date), physical examination (medical record number, date, physical exam findings, and weight), procedures (anesthesia date, type, dose, and effect; procedure date, type, and result), treatment (date, type, dose, and comment), CBC, clinical chemistry, parasitology and microbiology, and gross/histologic findings. Whenever possible, “drop down” lists were created to maintain consistency in diagnoses, drugs, and necropsy findings. Where appropriate, additional diagnoses could be added to populate the lists.
Once the database was designed, SQL and cold fusion were utilized to prepare the website.
Web-based data entry serves as an excellent means of maintaining medical information on wildlife species that for a variety of reasons (confiscation, natural disasters, man-made disasters) that are sent to a variety of institutions. The use of these systems provides a source of data that can be stored, managed, search, and exported to different computer programs for data analysis and interpretation. The result of this is an increase in the speed of information dissemination and a method for increasing productivity and reducing the amount of time required by individuals who serve as the contact person.
The authors thank Maureen Trogdon, Jen Kishimori, the NCSU-CVM Turtle Rescue team students and volunteers, and the NCSU-CVM veterinary pathologists, pathology residents, and histopathology staff for the advice, assistance, and support.