January - June 2000

This has been a period marked with success but also with
problems persuading more of the hotels to join the program.


1. NEUTERING WORKSHOP

After many weeks of planning, and supported by funds from SPANA, the Workshop finally took place from 27-31 March 2000. Lisette Cartier van Dissel, the vet who was responsible for the success of the first visit to neuter cats at the Kombo Novotel and Fajara hotels in 1998, returned to lead the Workshop assisted by Melanie Dumelow, a nurse from her home practice in the UK.
The Workshop was held at the Department of Livestock Services Clinic at Abuko and during the 8 practical sessions 5 local vets and 2 assistants were involved in a very fruitful exchange of experience. In all 8 dogs were neutered (5 males; 3 females) and 11 cats (4 males; 7 females). The vets included government as well as private vets and all were warmly enthusiastic about the benefits of such opportunities to share skills and learn about different techniques and equipment.

The schedule was quite tough involving finding and transporting enough dogs and cats of both sexes to give the vets adequate practice! 

Overnight care was not really practical so we or the owners had to be prepared to collect the animals and look after them earlier than would be the case in the UK. 
We also started with a 'no electricity' situation! Luckily this only lasted an hour and the supply remained OK for the rest of the week!

A final Round Table discussion on the last day helped us to identify local needs and subjects for future Workshops if funds permit.
We donated a quantity of drugs and equipment to the vets before we left but this is a very small drop in a very large ocean.

2.  HOTEL CATS

Dodou and his assistant trappers have continued their trapping programme and more hotels have joined - Ngala Lodge and the Bakadaji. However we are having problems with the following two:

Senegambia Hotel

The Senegambia still refuses to join despite guests reporting 3 kittens in the grounds. AWAG has written formally to the Manager Mr Dathe seeking a meeting to discuss his reasons for remaining outside the programme and we will continue to try and persuade him to operate humane methods of control. 

Palma Rima hotel: owner's son's dogs attack and kill cats

Worse problems arose at the Palma Rima hotel. In 1999 we had undertaken some neutering at our own expense with the permission of the owner, Sami Tamin. He was considering joining and paying the veterinary costs when we left. 

However, in March this year we were approached by guests as well as the local Thomson representative with very bad news. The owner's son, Hassan, had been left in charge and his dogs were terrorising both cats and hotel guests by running freely in the hotel grounds during the day and night!

The specific event reported to us concerned a dog running through the evening entertainment by the pool carrying a dead cat in its mouth.

We went at once to visit the dog's owner together with Dodou and were met with complete indifference and the comment that the dogs were encouraged to sort out the cats by killing them! 

We have joined the guests and written to Thomson Holidays who have expressed their concern. Their reply said that their senior staff "have taken steps to ensure that the activities you have described have now, to the best of our knowledge, stopped and our staff are continuing to monitor the situation".

The Gambia Experience said "Our Resort Manager, Joyce Stavroulakis, has discussed the matter with the owner. We have been assured by him that there will be no reoccurrence".

Action:

If you, or your friends can gather any further information at either of these hotels about their treatment of cats or beach dogs please let us have information. If you have more evidence of the dogs running unchecked at the Palma Rima please let us know.

PLEASE ALSO WRITE TO YOUR TOUR OPERATOR.. THEY WILL ONLY TAKE ACTION IF THEY RECEIVE ENOUGH COMPLAINTS

3. BEACH DOGS part 2

In August 1999, Dr Remfry had spent a week in The  Gambia with dog-handler Carl Howman, catching, identifying by special collars with ID numbers, giving anti-rabies vaccinations and deworming the beach dogs in the Senegambia area. (see Update 3). The two objectives of the follow-up visit which took place at the same time as the Neutering Workshop,were to assess how many of the dogs were still wearing their collars; and to extend the experiment to the area of the beach between Kotu Point and Kotu Strand Hotel.

The experience gained by Dr remfry from these two visits has led her to conclude that there are around 28 dogs living in the whole stretch between Kairaba and Fajara at the moment. Their health is good apart from 'mango' worms and ear infections. The beach dogs cause few problems to tourists unless they are ill and need treatment, or they are involved in fights - sometimes with dogs being walked by their owners at weekends.

The condition and maturity of the beach dogs suggest that they may be strays or abandoned. Puppies were noticable by their absence and several theories were discussed to explain this phenomenon. The reasons for a high turnover in dogs in the 7 months interval between the 2 visits were also only able to be guessed at.

The immediate future of the condition of the beach dogs depends on informed monitoring of their condition; provision of basic care (worming, nail trimming, ear treatment) at a convenient site near the beach (yet to be found); and the provision of gentle euthanasia when they are terminally ill or suffering injuries from which they cannot recover.

Their long-term future is dependent on legislation to prevent unwanted dogs being abandoned and facilities to enact such legislation; also the investigation of the incidence of rabies in The Gambia and the need to re-activate the annual vaccination programme by the government.

GambiCats is investigating ways to help with these problems and is very grateful to Dr Remfry for providing the data.

5. THE ASSOCIATION FOR THE WELFARE OF ANIMALS IN THE GAMBIA (AWAG)

AWAG celebrated its first birthday in March 2000 with a small party at the Kombo Beach hotel which also marked the successful conclusion of the Neutering Workshop. The AWAG Committee is supporting the work with the cats and beach dogs in a number of ways, seeking publicity for the programmes and spreading the animal welfare message through the communit

 Media coverage and publicity

We enclose a copy of a splendid full page article on our work by Bijou Peters which appeared in the Gambian newspaper The Sunday Observer. We met Bijou during our visit and she came to observe operations at the Workshop subsequently covering that event in the same newspaper.

 TheGambiCats' work was also featured by the BBC World Service in February with interviews with hotel staff, Dodou, Frances Miller and the Kombo cats themselves! The programme was transmitted on Focus on Africa and put together by Ebrimah Sillah, BBC West Africa correspondent.

Following the Workshop and thanks to efforts from Adama Bah, Gambia's Radio One FM also invited Dodou and Frances to talk about the work with the cats and dogs and to take calls on their Saturday Tourism phone-in.

 A popular line of T-shirts and tops with the GambiCats logo had been selling well through shops at the Senegambia and Kombo hotels; and the Beauty Salon at the Kairaba - many thanks to Anne Braren who has organised this and generously donated funds to our work and to Eva at the Kairaba.

A BIG THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO HAS HELPED US OVER THE PAST YEAR !