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Globetrotting Cheltenham vet assists summer blockbuster

All Areas > Entertainment > Culture

Author: Patrick Baines, Posted: Tuesday, 26th June 2018, 09:00

Jonathan with a Blue Wildebeest Jonathan with a Blue Wildebeest

Gloucestershire vet Jonathan Cranston has had a busy 12 months. As well as writing a book on his career as a veterinary surgeon he also used his knowledge of the animal kingdom to assist the producers of the new ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ film.

Having spent plenty of time in Africa working with large animals such as crocodiles and rhinos, Jonathan, who works at Dragon Vets in Cheltenham, was recommended to the directors of the new Jurassic World film who were seeking a veterinary advisor to help in making the dinosaurs look as realistic as possible. Jonathan exlained: “Initially it started off with a few phone calls and emails, then I was asked to meet the director and producers. I had an hour-long meeting with them, talking through scenes and then it snowballed from there. I went in for rehearsals and I was on set with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, the two main characters of the film. They were so friendly and really took on board what I was telling them.

“There’s a specific scene in the film that allowed the use of animatronic dinosaurs, rather than using CGI. In one scene where one of the velociraptors is being operated on, there were nine people controlling all the movements of the model dinosaur. Even though you are on set and you know it’s a model, the way the puppeteers controlled it, the eye movements and breathing, it was incredible. Initially I was there to impart my veterinary knowledge, to explain how an operation is carried out but all the puppeteers were great and spent time asking me if they were getting the breathing right and making the operation seem as realistic as possible, their attention to detail was staggering. I was on set for 12 days at the Pinewood studios, it was an incredible experience and I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished film.”

As well as providing his veterinary expertise on the big summer blockbuster, Jonathan will be releasing a book later this year. The book, titled ‘The Travelling Vet’, is set for release in October and will tell the story of Jonathan’s work at home and abroad, especially his work in Africa where he has treated crocodiles, elephants and lions. Jonathan continued: “Five years ago I started writing down my experiences of working with all the different animals, from domestic cats and dogs to more exotic creatures like crocodiles. The book contains 20 chapters, with each chapter focused on a different animal I’ve worked with. The central chapter of my book, and what made me want to write the book in the first place, concerns a rhino that was poached and killed. What made it even worse was that his mother had been killed by poachers as well. That was an awfully harrowing experience. My hope for the book is that it makes people think about conservation and how important animals are. The animal kingdom has been diminished by 40% in the last thirty years, we need to work harder to protect these magnificent creatures.

“Treating a cat or a dog is pretty straightforward, you sedate the animal and operate. When it comes to operating on a larger animal in Africa the whole process is so much more complicated. I’ve treated animals where we’ve had to go up in a helicopter and fire a sedation dart at them. Operating on an animal like a fully-grown crocodile – that weighs 800kg and is close to five metres long – required ten people to simply move the creature into position to be sedated. We then had to use a crane and a lorry to move him into position for us to operate, certainly more of a logistical challenge than what I’m used to doing back home!”

After qualifying from the Royal Veterinary College in 2006, Jonathan, who lives in Stow-on-the-Wold, spent the early part of his career working in Devon where he treated domestic pets and farm animals. He continued: “I knew from a very young age I wanted to work with animals. I fancied myself as a James Herriot style vet, out on the farms treating the animals. My first job after qualifying was down in north Devon where I did some work at two wildlife parks. After working there for a couple of years I took some time off to go travelling, that was my first experience of Africa. I knew straight away that I wanted to go back and work out there. In 2011 I went back out and completed a wildlife course. It’s an enormous privilege getting to work with these amazing animals.

Other Images

The front cover on Jonathan’s book

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