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About us

History of Archaeopteryx

The memory of an old board member

During the study of veterinary medicine in the 1980s, we were the first batch of students to receive 100% of our education at the Uithof. Before that, the faculty of veterinary medicine and all of its study associations were located on the Biltstraat in the centre of Utrecht.

As preparation for the planned construction of the UMC hospital and other faculties on the Yalelaan, quite a few construction posts have been placed in the lawns around the main building.

Without computers, without mobile phones and often with a crappy bicycle we went to the Uithof every day. The lectures given by the professors were mandatory. A signature list recorded the presence of the students.

The small pets department treated the live and sick birds and special animals under the supervision of Dr Sjeng Lumeij. In the 5th year of study we were offered the opportunity to voluntarily follow the tropical veterinary internship. Special animals were also treated here, but this internship was more focused on zoonoses in the tropics and treatment of local farm animals (also known as special animals such as game management and cattle). The Pathology department in the main building treated the dead birds and special animals under the supervision of Prof. P Zwart.

The mandatory lectures and the afternoon practicals provided a full working week. However, we were able to attend an extra set of lectures. The group of pathology teachers for birds and special animals gave voluntary lecture series at the end of workdays. Our main teachers were Marein van der Hage and Gerrie Dorrestein. They gave amazing lectures about birds, turtles and other reptiles, rabbits, guinea pigs and other very special animals: species we would later encounter as a vet. Lectures always started on Tuesday afternoon at 5 PM. Only the motivated students interested in birds in particular came to view the beautiful slides on the overhead projector in the large lecture hall. Sometimes the teacher, Professor P. Zwart, did the lectures by himself. The lectures were full of beautiful slides and sometimes a nice video (there was no PowerPoint yet, no emails, no CD and no digital photos) of very special animals that were already being kept in the Netherlands. Dissections of diseased animals from the zoo, rabbits from rabbit farms, various laboratory animals and hobby birds were shown with slide images, taking the quality of education to a new level.

However we, the students, wanted more than just slides and words. In the main building of our veterinary faculty you could find several student associations, such as the Diergeneeskundige Studenten Kring (DSK), Duim In 't Gat, the Gouden Trachea, Solleysel, Veterinarians in Development Cooperation and the faculty magazine with the stories of Paultje Piggelmee. All those associations were great, but we missed an association with the aim of sharing knowledge on veterinary medicine of birds and special animals. At that time, in consultation with the DSK, it was decided to set up a new association for veterinary medicine students with an interest in birds and special animal medicine. In this way it became possible for us to receive some grants from the faculty and from the DSK to print our own magazine and to be able to organize various excursions and lectures.

The new association was immediately set up and dealt with professionally, mainly through the collaboration with Marein van der Hage and Gerrie Dorrenstein.

After establishing our first board, we had to come up with a good name for the new association. Naturally, no name could be better than the name of the first bird to exist on Earth: Archaeopteryx. Soon after, we had our own magazine with interesting stories about experiences with special animals. We were able to use the printing department in the main building to print our own magazine. The pens wrote the texts, the typewriters typed the words and the first Archaeopteryx Veterinaris was created after some tweaks and turns. The texts and photos were only supplied typed. The first editions were black and white printed books with a coloured cover. The content consisted of personal experiences with special birds and with technically adequate knowledge from the pathology department by Marein van der Hage and Gerrie Dorrestein.

Meetings with the board, other meetings, organising mail, sending invitations, looking for sponsors: all activities to spread more knowledge and gain experience. Archaeopteryx fully started without email, without Facebook, without computer, without mobile phones and without digital cameras. This exact bird is extinct, but our Archaeopteryx is alive and blooming, colourful with many members and ready for a new anniversary.

The first symposia were organized in small groups, often just for interested students of veterinary medicine. Later on we started organizing excursions to zoos to take a look behind the scenes with the zoo vet. Vets and many others became passionate about the work of all members of the new Archeopteryx association too. 

After graduation, a vet could no longer remain on the board of Archaeopteryx. However, thanks to good successors, the magazine and the association still exist in full glory. The successors also ensured that not only veterinary students could become members, but also veterinarians and other students.

Thanks to the computer and digital photography, the magazine is now available in full colour. Therefore: congratulations with the lustrum and on to the next lustrum!

What did I do with all this knowledge and all these lectures? Thanks to Marein and Gerrie, I was able to further develop the medicine for the special animals and rabbits as a veterinarian, both commercially and for the companion 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 special animals in our practice.

Currently, I am a board member of the rabbit medicine group of the KNMvD and a 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 WRSA conference is held somewhere in the world, only about rabbits. As a board member of the Small Animal Lovers Netherlands I can transfer the knowledge of the fowl, waterfowl and small rodents and rabbits to the 7000 members in the Netherlands. A European show is also organized every 4 years, where about 40,000 animals are present. The European Show of 2018 took place in Denmark.

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

Archaeopteryx, congratulations on the anniversary, with the symposium and with the beautiful magazine. Keep it up and pass it on to the next generation of special students.

Harry Arts