Do you want to know more about being a traveler vet? Dr. Sylvain Hawawini or as you might know him from his Instagram profile – Dr. Shawa Vet will share about his traveling vet experience.
Tell us few things about yourself
Hey, I’m Sylvain Hawawini, 27 and I have been a vet for 4 years now. I’m half French (so I do apologize in advance for my English 😉 ) and half Egyptian. I grew up in France and I’ve always traveled a lot with my family, mostly to visit our family around the world. I studied in Paris then Lyon (France) before moving to Zambia for almost 2 years.
Why did you decide to become a vet?
It might be weird but it has not always been a “child dream”. It has always been an idea as I’ve been passionate about animals for as long as I remember. I wanted to study them, film them in the wild, protect them, that was the plan. But after a while, it did come as an evidence tho and now I could’t be more than happy to have made this choice. Being a vet is also for me so much more than being a clinician, it opens countless doors and that’s what is amazing about it.
Where did you study?
I graduated at Alfort Veterinary School in Paris. It’s the second oldest veterinary school in the world which just celebrated its 250th anniversary so it’s pretty amazing to be surrounded with so much history. We even have our own museum ! What’s great about Alfort is our strong school spirit which makes you proud to be there. And also we have a brand new small animal hospital with amazing facilities so it’s not all about fun !!
You are a traveling vet! A lot of people in the field might consider that to be a dream come true. How is it going so far?
When I said being a veterinarian would open a lot of doors, the possibility to work or volunteer around the world is for me one of the most appealing side of our profession. Even if with a french degree, you can’t really work everywhere (you still need equivalence for USA, Australia, NZ or South Africa), it’s always possible if you want it !! It’s just a life choice to make ! And some work to achieve it ! However, I’m not always travelling for my job but I try to !
Share one of your most interesting stories as a traveling vet with us!
Recently, I was travelling in Central America with 2 vet friends from Australia. We stopped in Costa Rica in an animal rescue center. We got along very well with the local vet and we did so many interesting things with him, like castrating monkeys. But the highlight was definitely being able to do a medical check up on a baby sloth. Being a travelling vet teaches you so much from the vets you meet and work with and allows you to discover so many different species.
We see a lot of interesting pictures from your patients. Can you tell us more about the ones you found the most interesting and the most challenging?
The most interesting encounter as a vet is definitely with a pangolin. This amazing creature is found in Asia and Africa but it’s also the most trafficked animal in the world with an estimation of more than a million of them killed in the last 10 years !! Working in conservation in Zambia, I had the opportunity (if you can call it like that) to rescue numerous of pangolins. It’s incredibly rare to spot one in the wild and in 2 years, I had the opportunity to release 10 or 15 of them which was quite something. They often come in a very bad shape as poachers sometimes keep them for 2 or 3 weeks without feeding them.
Do you have any pets and what is your favorite animal?
Yeah I have a dog, a golden retriever that is quite often with me on my Instagram posts 😉 and also a horse. We used to have plenty of cats but living in the country side, they were half wild and would come and go. It’s quite hard to answer the second question. I would say I found okapis the most interesting and they are a real goal to spot in the wild. Sharks are also fascinating and I love to dive with them. And many more for so many other reasons !
We are always looking forward to your next Instagram post!
How did it all start? 🙂
It’s started when a vet friend of mine tagged me in one of her picture while we were training in Zimbabwe. She was using Instagram a lot and I only had an account to follow some of my friends. People started to follow me and asked questions about vet science.
Do you have any advice for the future vets?
It looks like more and more young vets are not very happy with their job (long shifts, hard work, difficult owners, dealing with pain and death) and want to do something else. I would advise every future vet to get as many experience they can, even before vet school, to realize what it really is. For every young vet that is wondering if it wasn’t a mistake, being a vet is a formidable opportunity to do whatever you want (well, maybe not being a pilot) so go for it and use your vet degree as a plus !
What countries have you visited so far as a vet and what are your plans for the future?
I’ve started to travel during my studies. I went to work with sea turtles in Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean then for 2 following summers in Zambia where I worked with an amazing NGO to work with elephants, the same NGO I would join permanently when I finished my studies few years later. I also spent some time in the countryside in North-East India, looking after cattle and elephants! But I also had the chance to go to Sri Lanka, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Malawi and more recently Costa Rica and Gabon.
For the future, I would like to go more in South America and the Pacific region.
If you want to read more interesting stories go here.