Since 1902, when its veterinary programs began, WCS has been a pioneer in promoting wildlife health as critical to saving wildlife, wild places, and the people interacting with them. In the Fall of 1916, the Bronx Zoo opened its Animal Hospital—arguably the first such facility at a US zoo. Its 2,111 square feet included space for a surgical room, animal holding areas, a morgue, offices, and a small museum. In 1985, a new Animal Health Center with 10 times the space became part of the Bronx Zoo.
Just as the old Animal Hospital has long been replaced by a modern building served by advanced medical technology, the Wildlife Conservation Society’s commitment to wildlife health has continued to evolve throughout the history of the organization, expanding from the care of WCS’s zoo and aquarium animals to wildlife across the world. In 1989, WCS established the first Field Veterinary Program for training, assessment, and disease management for wildlife in field sites around the world.
In 2004, WCS was the initial proponent of the “Manhattan Principles” proposing a new approach to health under the “One World - One Health™” framework, laying the ground for the now broadly adopted One Health approach. Since 2004 this approach has been adopted by numerous global entities and is generally portrayed as ‘One Health’. Today, ‘One Health’ is often narrowly focused on a few select topics, such as emerging infectious diseases at the human-animal interface and pandemic preparedness. While these are undoubtedly important issues, such a constrained OWOH approach cannot deliver to its full global health potential. In October 2019, WCS partnered with the Climate and Environmental Foreign Policy Division at the German Federal Foreign Office in convening the One Planet, One Health, One Future conference attended by close to 200 individuals from government, academia, policy and civil society where a Call to Action, 'the Berlin Principles' was proposed. The Berlin Principles are an ‘update’ of the Manhattan Principles, reintegrating ecosystem health and integrity while also addressing current pressing issues, such as climate change and antimicrobial resistance.
As the only major conservation organization with a dedicated staff of veterinarians, WCS is committed to advancing the development of science professionals working in ecosystem and wild animal health around the world, both in captive wildlife and in free-ranging wildlife populations. We work to develop innovative approaches to wildlife management, to support ecosystem health, identify and prevent new and emerging diseases, decrease conflict between wildlife and livestock, and build new partnerships for conservation.