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X-ray vision A man of many talents, Dr Mark Penhale is a veterinarian, artist and voluntourist. Samantha Trenoweth discovers more … MARK PENHALE’S CAREER WAS decided at birth, or at conception, really. “It was in the genes,” he says, laughing. “My father was a vet, my grandfather was a vet, my grandad’s seven brothers were all vets.” They worked out of a sprawling family practice in country Cornwall in the UK. “There was traditional large animal work, with some smallies in there. Then Dad broke with tradition and went into research, and he moved to Scotland, which was where I was born.” Dr Penhale can’t remember a time when he wasn’t fascinated by animals. “The first animal I found was a bizarre emerald green lizard. It appeared in the back garden one day and it turned out to be quite a rare species, which was exciting. After that, animals became an obsession. I was always finding sick or abandoned creatures and bringing them home—bunnies with myxomatosis or birds that had fallen out of nests.” When Dr Penhale was eight, his father was offered a teaching position at Murdoch University in Perth, and he decided that Australia was a great place to raise a family. “It was a magical thing,” Dr Penhale recalls, “to arrive here and discover Australia’s unique wildlife. That was inspiring too.”

In the latter years of high school, he realised that the family tradition had set the academic bar very high, which he remembers as somewhat stressful. “Then, after school,” he adds, “my father was one of my teachers at university, so there was a bit of pressure on there too. If I did badly, he knew before I did.” There were times when Dr Penhale’s mind wasn’t entirely on the task at hand, because he loved to draw. He’d been sketching and doodling and flipping through art books in book stores for as long as he’d been bringing home strays. “Art and animals,” he explains. “They’re the two things that have been fairly constant throughout my life­—they’re two wonderful things. I was always drawing, as a kid. When I was in high school and also later in university, I spent a lot of time sketching teachers and lecturers when I should have been paying attention in class.” Dr Penhale graduated from Murdoch in 1991 and went into mixed animal practice in country Western Australia, working from Kununurra and Karratha in the north, all the way down to Katanning and Albany. He did locum work at Perth Zoo and he taught at Murdoch University. For the past decade, he’s worked at a practice in


Perth, which he likes because “there’s a great group of people involved and they let us all take a month off every year to travel and do teaching work overseas. So I’ve taught in Africa, India, Indonesia and Greece, which has been magic.” One of Dr Penhale’s first trips was to the city of Jaipur in Rajasthan in north-western India. “The clinic we were

“There’s a great group of people involved and they let us all take a month off every year to do teaching work overseas.” Dr Mark Penhale

Vet Practice Aug 2014  
Vet Practice Aug 2014