A lifelong passion for nature and a fascination for the vast array of species in our world led Leanne to the study of wildlife medicine and conservation health. Having spent her career developing skills, experience and education in this area, Leanne is currently the Senior Veterinarian at the Australian Wildlife Health Centre, Healesville Sanctuary, Zoos Victoria. As a zoo-based conservation organisation, Zoos Victoria is committed to fighting the extinction of wildlife.
After initially completing a Bachelor of Science, majoring in marine ecology, Leanne moved into veterinary medicine, graduating as a veterinarian from the University of Sydney in 2003. As a new graduate, she moved to Hobart, Tasmania, to work in a mixed animal practice, seeing a surprisingly varied wildlife caseload. After a few years responding to whale strandings, rehabilitating wildlife, assisting with research into seal movements around fish farms and volunteering with the Orange-bellied parrot recovery program, Leanne spent a summer with the Australian Antarctic Division anaesthetising Weddell Seals at Davis Station to attach GPS data loggers as part of a program monitoring seal movements and the thermal properties of the southern ocean.
In 2006, Leanne moved to Vietnam to work as a veterinarian rehabilitating and caring for wild animals – primates, civets, small cats, bears, turtles and pangolins - confiscated from the illegal wildlife trade, and completing her masters of veterinary science research, with the University of Sydney, on the health of trade confiscated and captive born Viverridae (civets) in Vietnam. In 2009 she joined the Wildlife Conservation Society as a field veterinarian, implementing the USAID funded PREDICT program in partnership with the Department of Animal Health and the National University of Agriculture. This work aimed to understand the prevalence of pathogens with pandemic potential circulating within the wildlife trade system, to improve wildlife diagnostic capacity and Vietnam’s preparedness for emerging infectious disease. Leanne remains involved in this work in Vietnam as a board member for Save Vietnam’s Wildlife and an active member of the IUCN-SSC Pangolin Specialist Group.
On her return to Australia in 2012, Leanne became a member of the ANZCVS, Zoo and Wildlife Chapter (Medicine of Australasian Wildlife) and joined the executive committee of the Wildlife Diseases Association - Australasian section. She is particularly interested in the potential impact of disease on the conservation of threatened species, and in how veterinarians can build effective collaborations with ecologists, agencies and land managers to ensure that health is considered in overall management and recovery programs for these species.
During the 2019/2020 bushfire season, Leanne led the veterinary response to fire affected wildlife in Victoria, as part of a wider collaboration between Zoos Victoria and DELWP under Victoria’s state government emergency response.