July - December 1999
1. BEACH DOGS
We have been aware of the problems of the dogs in The Gambia since our earliest visit. They are a very obvious part of daily life - relaxing by the beach bars looking for food, water and friendly tourists to talk to; living dangerously by roaming the roads, markets and compounds, They lead a parallel existence, their lives touching ours at times of need.
Pilot project - August 1999
With the threat of rabies in the background, and with no first-hand knowledge of how dogs would react to strangers, we decided to mount a pilot project. Dr Jenny Remfry, who had taken part in the first cat neutering programme in 1998, and Carl Howman, Animal Warden for East Lothian, Scotland, spent a week at the Senegambia Hotel in August. Their remit was to make the beach dogs more acceptable to tourists and hotel managements through vaccination against rabies and worm treatment; to demonstrate new ways of catching and handling dogs to local personnel; and to neuter some of the dogs.
Equipped with muzzles, slip leads, gauntlets, collars, vaccine and worm tablets, Jenny and Carl worked with 5 veterinary assistants from the Government Department of Livestock Services (DLS) and a liaison vet.
By the end of the week some 16 dogs had been caught, collared, vaccinated, wormed, registered and released. Experience showed that most accepted handling easily and the pilot project was considered a great success by the team, the DLS, the tourists and the Senegambia Hotel management.
For such a programme to have long-term use it is essential that the rabies control continues under Government supervision on a regular basis. During a visit in November, we made contact with the local WHO office to examine funding options and met with DLS personnel to discuss writing a proposal so that the rabies programme could be re-instated.
Neutering the beach dogs was not possible for a number of reasons - veterinary experience as well as surgical facilities and secure areas for post-operative recuperation were not easily available in the area where the dogs were caught.
"Beach dogs 2000"
The option chosen by GambiCats and SPANA for the future is to organise a training workshop for Gambian vets and assistants in the Spring of 2000. With a broader base of vets to draw on, dogs can be taken by their owners, or during anti-rabies programmes, to private or government vets for neutering and to also deal with any welfare problems.
2. HOTEL CATS
Progress with the cats is slow but steady. Dodou Bojang and the 2 trapping assistants are working with cats at the following hotels: Atlantic, Badala Park, Bakotu, Bungalow Beach, Cape Point, Fajara, Kairaba, Kombo Beach, Mariatou, and Safari Garden. During our November visit the Palm Grove and Siva Sunbeach also signed up. Luigi's Pizza Restaurant and the Sir William Restaurant are also members and supporters.
Kombo Hotel summer closure
During the closure of the Kombo Hotel between May and October we had an emergency with some 40 cats needing feeding at the Kombo and Fajara who had previously relied in the Kombo restaurant and guests! Luckily supporters rallied round with funds from individuals as well as the Alice Noakes Trust, Luigi's and the British High Commission. The cats are given one full meal every day and the majority are in good health thanks to this support.
A MAJOR SETBACK occured at the Senegambia Hotel where the Manager refused to discuss the continuation of the cat programme. During the August visit, the Senegambia had agreed to join the GambiCats scheme. The hotel had tried to get rid of its dogs and cats by netting, poisoning etc. until as recently as this summer, much to the distress and anger of guests (and staff). When the Manager, Mr Dathe, returned from leave he cancelled all cooperation with GambiCats and, to date, will not allow any further neutering to be carried out. We will continue to put the case to him and hope that sense will prevail. For a major hotel to stand against a humane control scheme, already endorsed by the Government and operating in most of the reliable hotels, would seem to be very short-sighted.
Royal Victoria Hospital cats
We were also able to talk to the administrators at the RVH in Banjul about its cat colony. The RVH shares a boundary with the Atlantic Hotel so GambiCats needs to assess the numbers and decide on a strategy for dealing with them. Even more work for Dodou!
3. ASSOCIATION FOR THE WELFARE OF ANIMALS IN THE GAMBIA (AWAG)
AWAG has continued to meet and support the cat and dog programmes. They hope to arrange an event to mark their first anniversary in spring 2000 which will publicise their existence and bring in more helpers and funds for the projects which they would like to undertake.
4. SOCIETY FOR THE PROTECTION OF ANIMALS ABROAD (SPANA)
November saw the first visit to The Gambia of a representative from SPANA who have been supporting our work as one of their first Outreach Programmes. Rosemary Marshall, their Chairman, visited The Gambia for 10 days and we arranged meetings with Government officials and vets as well as a visit to the DLS centre at Abuko. Dodou arranged a number of visits to hotels and restaurants in the scheme and introduced Rosemary to our 2 trapping assistants.
Rosemary also met the AWAG Executive Committee and discussed future cooperation.
5. NUMBER ONE DONKEY
One of the programmes which we and SPANA wanted to make a start on was improving the welfare of the donkeys used as draught animals in The Gambia. Thanks again to Dodou's wide network of experience, we were able to meet one of the group of owners who come from the country and wait, with their donkeys, at a place near the Serrekunda Market, to be hired. Rosemary and Dodou explained the use of the metal bit and its advantages over the rope which is widely used.
The owner was very cooperative and helped to fit the new bit. His fellow donkey-owners were also very interested and we will be monitoring Number 1 donkey and probably giving metal bits to other owners in due course.
Rosemary thought that the donkeys which she saw were, in general, in better shape than their counterparts in North African countries where SPANA works, which was good news. However, providing replacement bits and a general information programme about recommended maximum loading weights, basic veterinary care and attention would result in some very positive benefits for the donkeys and their owners - another target for 2000!
We have been very grateful for the support of a number of companies and individuals in the past year and would like to thank everyone who has helped. A special vote of thanks goes to Joa who has helped us to produce business cards and T-shirts and spent a week helping in The Gambia.