History of Archaeopteryx

As recalled from the memories of an old board member...

While studying veterinary medicine in the 1980s, we were the first batch of students to receive full education at the Uithof. Before that, the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and all its student associations were still located on the Biltstraat in the center of Utrecht.

Quite a few piles had already been driven into the lawns around the main building for the construction of the UMC hospital and the various faculties on Yalelaan.

Without computers, without mobile telephones and often on an old bicycle to the Uithof, the lectures of the professors were mandatory. A signature list was used to keep track of those present.

The small animals department treated the living and sick birds and exotic animals under the supervision of Dr Sjeng Lumeij.  In the 5th year of our study, they  offered the opportunity to voluntarily follow the elective internship in tropical veterinary medicine. Exotic animals were also treated here, but this elective internship was more focused on zoonotic diseases in the tropics and treatment of local farm animals (also called exotic animals such as game management and cattle). The Pathology department in the main building covered dead birds and exotic animals under the supervision of Prof. P. Zwart.  

The compulsory lectures and the afternoon practicals resulted in a full working week. But thanks to the voluntary series of lectures at the end of the day taught by the group of teachers of the Pathology Department of Birds and Exotic Animals,  we were able to follow an extra cycle of lectures. Especially Marein van der Hage and Gerrie Dorrestein were our senior lecturers. They gave lectures on birds about tortoises and other reptiles,  about rabbits about guinea pigs, or about very special animals, which we would later likely encounter as vets. Lectures always started on Tuesday afternoons at 5 pm.  Only the go-getter with an interest in birds in particular came to view the beautiful slides and sheets on the overhead projector in the large lecture hall.  Sometimes the teacher Prof.  P. Zwart also gave lectures himself. With beautiful slides and sometimes a nice video (there were no powerpoints, no emails, no CD and no digital photos) presented on the  large screen in the main building they showed the scary syndromes of various exotic animals, which were also kept in the Netherlands at the time. Sections of dead zoo animals, sections of rabbits from commercial rabbit farms, sections from various laboratory animals, and sections from hobby birds were shown with slide pictures and good teaching.

But for us, the present students, we wanted more than just slides and words. In the main building there already were various student associations, such as  the Veterinary Student Circle, Duim In 't Gat, the Gouden Trachea, Solleysel, Veterinarians in Development Cooperation and the faculty magazine with the stories of Paultje Piggelmee. We missed a real association with the aim of promoting veterinary medicine regarding birds and exotic animals. At the time, in consultation with the DSK, it was decided to set up a new association for veterinary students with an interest in birds and special animal medicine. In this way it became possible for us to receive some subsidies from the faculty and from the DSK to have our own magazine printed and to be able to organize various excursions.

The new association was immediately set up professionally, especially due to the collaboration with Marein van der Hage and Gerrie Dorrenstein.

After the establishment of our first board, we had to come up with a good name for the new association. And what name could be better than the name of the first bird ever on earth: Archaeopteryx. We soon had our own magazine with stories about experiences with exotic animals. We were able to use the stencil printing department in the main building to print our own magazine.  The pens wrote the texts, the typewriters typed the words and good pasting and cutting resulted in the first leaflet Archaeopteryx Veterinaris. The texts and photos were only typed or handwritten. The first editions were booklets printed in black and white with a colored cover. The content consisted of personal experiences with exotic birds and with technical substantive knowledge from the pathology department by Marein van der Hage and Gerrie Dorrestein.

Board meetings, getting together, posting letters, sending invitations, looking for sponsors, all activities to spread more knowledge and gain experience. Without email, without facebook, without computer, without mobile phones, without digital cameras, Archaeopteryx began. This bird is extinct, but the modern Archaeopteryx is very much alive, colorful with many members and on to a new lustrum.

The first symposia were organized in small groups for often only the interested veterinary students. Later on we started organizing excursions to zoos to look behind the scenes together with the zoo vet. Veterinarians and many others also became passionate about the work of all members of the new association: Archaeopteryx.

After receiving the diploma, a veterinarian could no longer remain on the board of Archaeopteryx, but thanks to good successors, the magazine and the association still exist in all their glory. The successors also ensured that not only students can become members, but also veterinarians and other interested parties may too.

Thanks to the computer and digital photography, the magazine has now become a fully-fledged colorful whole. So congratulations on the lustrum and on to the next lustrum.

And what else have I done with all this knowledge and extra lectures? Thanks to Marein and Gerrie, as a veterinarian, I was able to further expand the medicine of exotic animals, the rabbits, both commercially and companion kept rabbits. Thanks to the lectures and the knowledge from Archaeopteryx, we were able to do a lot of first-line treatments for birds and other exotic animals in our practice.

I am currently a board member  of the rabbit medicine group of the KNMvD and board member of the World Rabbit Science Association department of the Netherlands. With the WRSA we organize study days for this special animal. Every 4 years an international congress WRSA is held somewhere in the world just about rabbits. As a board member of KleindierLiefchiefs Nederland I can convey the knowledge of gallinaceous birds, waterfowl and small rodents and rabbits to the 7000 members in the Netherlands. A European show is also organized every 4 years, with about 40,000 animals. In 2018 the Europe show was in Denmark.

The lecture series of Prof. P. Zwart, M. van der Hage and G. Dorrestein were later converted by the pathology department into beautiful reference books Krankheite der Heimtiere and Krankheite der Wildtiere. Thanks to these books, it was no longer necessary to take notes during lectures.

Archaeopteryx, congratulations on the lustrum with the symposium, with the beautiful booklets, keep it up and pass the baton on to the next generation of special students.

- Harry Arts