Dr Steve Unwin BSc BVSc Dipl ECZM (ZHM) MRCVS

Dr Steve Unwin

School of Biosciences
Lecturer in Biosystems and Environmental Change

Dr Steve Unwin is a European specialist in Zoo Health Management. He leads on creating wildlife One Health networks in Africa and South East Asia to improve capacity in environmental conservation.


  • Bachelor of Science (Physiology and Ecology double major)
  • Bachelor of Veterinary Science
  • Post graduate diploma from the European College of Zoological Medicine (European Specialist in Zoo Health Management)


Dr Steve Unwin graduated in 1993 with a science degree majoring in physiology and ecology and in 1997 with a veterinary science degree, both from Massey University in New Zealand. Between 1997 and 2003 he worked in several zoos, wildlife rehabilitation centres and conservation projects in Australia, Thailand and Cameroon. From 2003 to May 2018 he was veterinary officer as part of the Chester Zoo Animal Health team, and as interim clinical manager for 2012. This not only gave him enhanced clinical skills and opportunity to work with top applied biology scientists to provide for the health and welfare for the animals at one of the top zoos in the world, covering almost every taxa, but also introduced him to academia and scientific publishing. As a recognised specialist in Zoo Health Management, Steve integrates veterinary knowledge of wildlife health and disease into conservation management programmes. He was the veterinary coordinator for the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance veterinary programme and is currently co-facilitator for the Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group. Both these organisations focus on and promote capacity building of local primate and wildlife veterinarians, scientists and conservation managers. As part of these networks, Steve has worked with the UoB’s Enclosure Design tool Team led by Dr Susannah Thorpe. OVAG won the BIAZA gold award for conservation in 2017. In May 2018, he became an independent wildlife and zoo consultant, with contracts with Wildlife Impact, IUCN, Dubai Safari and others, before taking up the post of lecturer at Birmingham. He is currently developing a primate gut microbiome programme with colleagues in the USA, Europe and SE Asia, and continuing his capacity building with PASA, OVAG, and others.


BIO240 Skills Module

BIO277 Evolution of humans and other animals

BIO278 Animal Biology Principles and Mechanisms

BIO392 Advanced Topics in Animal Behaviour

BIO397 Living in Groups

BIO379 Cellular Neurobiology

BIO380 Human Evolution


  • Wildlife health and disease prevention using the One Health paradigm to promote environmental conservation.
  • Creation and implementation of successful disease risk analysis tools in zoo and conservation medicine
  • Clinical aspects of emerging infectious disease in wildlife
  • Epidemiological evidence for pathogen transmission from human source to wildlife, in particular primates (Orangutans, chimpanzees, macaques).
  • Evaluation of wildlife capacity building programmes to confirm conservation impact
  • Reintroduction biology
  • Zoo housed versus wild-based species microbiomes, especially as related to reintroduction viability
  • Use of social media to improve conservation impact

Other activities

Committee memberships (year since)

2013 – Associate Editor of Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine.
2018 – Co-chair, Examinations committee, ECZM-ZHM
2016 – Co-chair: International Primatological Society committee on remote capture
2008 – Committee member, Captive Care Working Party of the Primate Society of Great Britain (Convenor pending October 2019)
2013 – Member, Advisory Committee for Ape reintroduction.


Membership of National and International bodies (year since)

1999 – Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
2013 - IUCN wildlife health specialist group
2016 – IUCN Conservation Planning Specialist Group
2014  - European College of Zoological Medicine
2003 – British Veterinary Zoological Society.
2013 – European Association of Zoo and Wildlife Veterinarians  


Consultancies/ professional development

June 2006 – November 2014; September 2018 - Current: Pan African Sanctuary Alliance Veterinary Director (2006 – 2014); committee member/ lead capacity building facilitator (2018 – current).  Network of over 25 organisations across 12 African countries committed to wildlife welfare and conservation. Development of online CPD through Canvas.

May 2009 – current. Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group Committee. Co-founder/ lead facilitator https://www.ovag.org ). Network of over 50 organisations committed to orangutan conservation

June 2011 – current: Lecturer. Royal Veterinary College Masters’ in Conservation Biology and Wild Animal Health. Teaching primate medicine

January 2015 – current. Technical advisor, evaluator and co-founder, Wildlife Impact (www.wildlifeimpact.org)

June 2003 – current - Honorary Lecturer – University of Liverpool.

December 2018 – current – Honorary Senior Research Fellow – University of Birmingham.

June 2010 – current. Facility Inspector and reviewer EARS (European Alliance of Rehabilitation centres and Sanctuaries).

September 2015 – current: EEP (European species survival plan) veterinary advisor for Sulawesi Macaques  


Postgraduate teaching

2018. Workshop provision on disease risk communication to veterinary graduate students in the Hokkaido University International vet graduate programme, Sapporo, Japan.

2017. University of Liverpool MSc in Veterinary Professional Development 'Therapeutics' module writing and marking

2017. Teaching on Plymouth University MSc in Zoo Conservation Biology: Community Involvement in Conservation Medicine

2011 – current. Primate Medicine module. Masters in Wild Animal Health/ Masters in Conservation Biology. Royal Veterinary College/ ZSL.


Undergraduate teaching

2003 – current Liverpool University undergraduate veterinary teaching

2003 – 2018. Clinical supervision to approximately 120 final year veterinary students through the Chester Zoo Animal Health Centre (approx. 8 per year for 15 years). 1 on 1 training and teaching.

2017 – Current University Gadjah Mada summer school. Wildlife Medicine and One Health summer school teaching to undergraduate veterinary and forestry students.


Former posts

Independent conservation medicine consultant - May 2018 – Oct 2019






May 2018

Wildlife Impact

IUCN Small Apes Group


Rehabilitation project consultant

Jun – Nov 2018

Parques Reunidos

Dubai Safari


Veterinary Director

Jan 2019




Lecturing in wildlife health – Masters and undergraduate

Feb – Mar 2019

Wildlife Impact

USFWS/ Govt. of Angola


Wildlife health consultant

Mar – June 2019

Max Planck Institute

Max Planck Institute


Wildlife Health consultant: – Great Ape brain Connectomics Project

Jul 2019

Chester Zoo

Orangutan Veterinary Advisory Group (OVAG)


OVAG organiser and facilitator

Aug – Oct 2019




Orangutan health Internship organiser and facilitator

May 2003- April 2018 - Veterinary Officer, Chester Zoo. Primary responsibility – part of the team maintaining and improving the clinical health and welfare of the approximately 11000 animals housed at Chester Zoo.

  • Assist in the coordination and running Chester Zoo’s own post graduate residency (2003 – 2016)
  • Primary supervisor of the Chester Zoo ECZM residency (2016 - 2018)
  • Interim Chester Zoo Veterinary Manager September 2011 – August 2012

November 2002 – April 2003 - Field Veterinarian. Pandrillus, Limbe Wildlife Centre, Cameroon.

November 2001 – October 2002 – Associate Veterinarian – Healesville Sanctuary (Australian wildlife rehab), Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary (Australian wildlife rehab)

May 2001 – October 2001  Associate Veterinarian (Contract) Melbourne Zoo, Australia

August 1999 – May 2001 Associate Veterinarian Currumbin Wildlife Sanctuary, Australia

April 1999 – July 1999  Volunteer Veterinarian, Auckland Zoo, NZ

June 1998 – March 1999 Veterinary clinical locum, Veterinary Employment Services, UK

January 1998 – May 1998   Field Veterinarian at Royal Forestry Department of Thailand/ Thai Society for the Conservation of Wild Animals, Thailand.


Proto W.R., Siegel S.V., Dankwa S., Liu W., Kemp A., Marsden S., Zenonos Z.A., Unwin S., Sharp P.M, Wright G.J., Hahn B.H., Duraisingh M.T., Rayner J.C (IN PRESS) Adaptation of Plasmodium falciparum to humans involved the loss of an ape-specific erythrocyte invasion ligand. Nature Communications.

Drane A.L., Atencia R., Cooper S.M., Rodriguez P., Sanchez C., Simcox S., Feltrer Y., Peck B., Eng J., Moittie S., Unwin S., Howatson G., Oxborough D., Stembridge M.R., Save R.E. (2019). Cardiac structure and function characterized across age groups and between sexes in healthy wild-born captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes) living in sanctuaries. American Journal of Veterinary Research. V80(6):547-557. doi: 10.2460/ajvr.80.6.547.

Cunningham EP & Unwin S (2018). Response to darting primates: steps toward procedural and reporting standards. International Journal of Primatology https://doi.org/10.1007/s10764-018-0072-4

Chatterton J, Unwin S, Lopez J, Chantrey, J. (2017). Urolithiasis in a group of visayan warty pigs (Sus cebrifrons negrinus). Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine. V48(3): 842-850.

Monné Rodríguez, J.M., Chantrey, J., Unwin, S.,and Verin, R. (2017). Cardiac Truncus Arteriosis In An Eastern Black Rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis michaeli). Journal of Comparative Pathology. V157: 276-279.

Atencia R, Sto¨hr EJ, Drane AL, Stembridge M, Howatson G, Lopez del Rio PR, Feltrer Y, Tafon B, Redrobe S, Peck B, Eng J, Unwin S, Sanchez C and Shave RE. (2017). Heart rate and indirect blood pressure responses to four different field anaesthetic protocols in wild-born captive chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of zoo and wildlife medicine V48(3): 636-644. 

Chatterton  J,  Unwin S, Rehman I Julie M. Bridson-Walton JM. (2015). Successful surgical treatment of obstructive liver disease caused by a gallstone in a captive chimpanzee Pan troglodytes. Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine V46(4): 925-p928.

Cunningham EP, Unwin S, Setchell JM. (2015). Darting Primates in the Field: A Review of Reporting Trends and a Survey of Practices and Their Effect on the Primates Involved. International Journal of Primatology. First online: 22 October 2015 doi:10.​1007/​s10764-015-9862-0)

Shave R, Oxborough D, Somauroo J, Feltrer Y, Strike T, Routh A, Chapman S, Redrobe S, Thompson L, Unwin S, Sayers G, Murphy H, Rapoport G and Stohr E. (2014). Echocardiographic assessment of cardiac structure and function in great apes: a practical guide.International Zoo Yearbook 48:218 – 233

A.J. Malbon, E. Ricci, S. Unwin, J. Chantrey. (2014). Cerebellar Abiotrophy in Two Related Lion-tailed Macaques (Macaca silenus). Journal of Comparative Pathology 150(1):93.

Unwin S, Chatterton J, Chantrey J.  (2013). Management of Severe Respiratory Tract Disease Caused By Human Respiratory Syncytial Virus and Streptococcus Pneumoniae in Captive Chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes). Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 44(1): 105-115.

Unwin S, Chantrey J, Aldhoun J, Chatterton J, and Littlewood T. (2012). Renal trematode infection due to Paratanaisia bragai in zoo housed Columbiformes and a red bird-of-paradise (Paradisaea rubra). International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife  2:32-41

Unwin S, Robinson I, Schmidt V, Colin C, Ford L, Humle T. (2012). Does Confirmed Pathogen Transfer between Sanctuary Workers and Great Apes Mean that Reintroduction Should not Occur? American Journal of Primatology 74(12): 1076 - 1083.

BoufanaB, Stidworthy M.F, Bell S, Chantrey J, Masters N, Unwin S, Wood R, Lawrence R.P, Potter A, Mcgarry J, Jull P, BrowneE, SchonigerS, RedrobeS, KillickR, FosterA.P, MitchellIS,SakoY, NakaoM, ItoA, WyattK, Lord B, CraigP.S. (2012). Echinococcus and Taenia spp. from captive mammals in the United Kingdom. Veterinary Parasitology 190: 95 – 103.

Lankester F, Kiyang J, Bailey W, and Unwin S. (2010). Dientamoeba fragilis: Initial Evidence of Pathogenicity in the Western Lowland Gorilla (Gorilla gorilla gorilla). Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine 41(2): 350–352.


Book Chapters and other publications

Dove V, French N, Grillo T, Holyoake C, Jakob-Hoff R, Kock R, Langstaff I, Lees C, MacDiarmid S, McInnes K, Miller P, Murray N, Reiss A, Rideout B, Siah S, Skerratt L, Tompkins D, Travis D, Unwin S, van Andel M, Vitali S, Warren K. (2014). Manual of Procedures of Wildlife Disease Risk Analysis. World Association of Animal Health, Paris, 160pp. Published in association with the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the Species Survival Commission.

Unwin S, Bailey W and Ancrenaz M (2011) Handling, anaesthesia, health evaluation and biological sampling. IN Field and Laboratory Methods in Primatology 2nd Ed (Setchell JM and Curtis DJ Eds). pp 147-168. Cambridge University Press.

Unwin S and Travis D (2007).  Disease Risk and Veterinary Requirements.  IN Best Practice Guidelines for the Reintroduction of Great Apes (Eds Beck B, Walkup K, Rodrigues M, Unwin S, Travis, T and Stoinski T).  Occasional Paper of the IUCN SSC No.35, Gland, Switzerland.  pp 15-25

Unwin S (2005).  Anaesthesia.  IN  The handbook of Experimental Animals: The Laboratory Primate.  Wolfe-Coote S. (Ed)  Elsevier Academic Press. Pp275-292

Boardman W, Dubois E, Fielder J and Unwin S (2004 and 2009).  Pan African Sanctuary Alliance Primate Veterinary Healthcare Manual 1st and 2nd editions. Published online by the Pan African Sanctuary Alliance www.pasaprimates.org.


Publications in review/ to be submitted 2019-20.

Commitante R, Bridges E, Farmer K, Jaya RL, Jaya YS, Moss A, Nente C, Soedarmanto I, Sulistyo F, Sugnesselan S, and Unwin S (lead author). (2020) In Prep. Evaluating the contribution of a wildlife health capacity building program on orangutan conservation. Biological Conservation

Unwin S, Gardiner S, Brice K,Cowl V, and Farmer H (2020) In Prep. Risk analysis of morbidity and mortality in the Sulawesi Macaque (Macaca nigra) EEP to improve disease surveillance protocols. Journal of Zoo and Aquarium Research.

View all publications in research portal