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WINNERS 2014

LISA MILELLA

When veterinary surgeon Lisa was told she will soon die, her response was to draw up a bucket list to save endangered animals.

Lisa is one of the world’s few specialist animal dental surgeons and ran her own veterinary practice in Surrey. Since qualifying as a vet in 2005, Lisa would also give up her holidays to travel abroad as an International Animal Rescue volunteer to operate on animals who have suffered abuse at the hands of humans. Among the animals she helped were more than 100 former dancing bears in India whose previous owners had smashed their teeth out with iron bars to make them easier to control.  

But in August 2013, at the age of just 39, Lisa was diagnosed with incurable Motor Neurone Disease. Doctors told her she had just two to five years to live. Rather than wallow in self-pity, Lisa decided to close her successful veterinary practice and draw up a bucket list composed of multiple missions to save the lives of even more endangered animals.

And over the last year, despite her debilitating condition, she has pushed herself to travel to rescue centres across the globe and help local vets perform life-saving surgery. She is determined to use what time she has left to pass on her skills to these local vets so they can continue her work when she is gone.

In January she flew to Borneo to oversee the life-saving surgery of overweight, diabetic Pingky, an orangutan raised in chains and fed on sweets. Then three days after saving Pingky, Lisa travelled to the Indonesian island of Java to operate on 20 slow loris rescued from the black market pet trade. During back-to-back operations over five days she trained a team of vets and nurses, so they can now continue the work.

In June Lisa returned to India to teach a team how to perform dental surgery on the dancing bears. And while in India, she also struck two more items off her bucket list, operating on a wild rescued leopard and a tiger who both suffered from toothache.


The last item on Lisa’s bucket list was to persuade 100 strangers to donate £100 each for International Animal Rescue. Lisa raised her target of £10,000 in just three days and has now doubled it.