Africa's population recently reached 1 billion people. It doubled in just 27 years!! The biggest threat to wildlife in Southern Africa is loss of habitat through encroachment by the ever expanding human population. Protecting a wildlife area in Zimbabwe is pointless without buy-in from adjacent local communities. The communities must experience benefit from the conservation area.
AWARE believes that improving the health of domestic animals adjoining wildlife areas will benefit:
The domestic animals directly by improving their standard of health and welfare and preventing diseases through vaccination and population control;
The owners of these animals by improving their livelihoods (they depend on their animals for their livelihoods). This should reduce encroachment into the Parks for the purposes of subsistence poaching and harvesting wood by cutting down trees. It also reduces the occurrence of zoonotic diseases (those that can be transmitted from animals to man), e.g. rabies in man.
The wildlife in the adjoining area by reducing poaching, hunting with dogs, and limiting the spread of disease into wildlife populations. Through education human-wildlife conflicts can also be mitigated.
These conservation areas are invariably remote, without electricity or running water, in which both humans and animals survive the toughest conditions Africa has to offer without access to even basic health care. Most of the people living in these remote regions are extremely poor and use cattle as their main currency. Donkeys are used for draft power and dogs are mainly used for guarding goat kraals against wild predators. There are even cats to keep rodents away from stored grain. Therefore, providing a much needed health care service to these animals, with an emphasis on population control, can have a direct effect on the quality of both human and animal life.
Keeping a check on the disease status of domestic animals adjoining Parks is also important as diseases are often transmitted between domestic and wild animals and vice versa. This is particularly important for wild carnivore populations, which are vulnerable because of their relatively small sizes and susceptibility to fatal viral diseases like Distemper and Rabies. An example of the latter is in the Kgalagadi in Botswana where lions recently succumbed to a fatal canine distemper outbreak thought to originate in domestic dogs living in the surrounding areas. Whilst performing prophylactic campaigns, blood samples are taken from the animal population in an area so that exposure to disease pathogens can be detected.
Working in these marginal areas also provides good first hand knowledge of other threats to wildlife, which are mainly borne out of conflict with ‘problem animals’, e.g. poisoning of hyaenas.
Donkey Clinics and the AWARE-SPANA alliance
In 2009, in response to complaints of cruelty against donkeys in Gweru, SPANA agreed to fund 6 donkey clinics run by AWARE in lower Gweru. In March 2010 AWARE held a course in donkey medicine for Zimbabwean vets and animal health technicians, given by SPANA's Dr Karen Reed. SPANA has since formed a strong partnership with AWARE, and made Zimbabwe a core country for its African donkey work. The project has steadily grown, first hiring Dr Erick Mutizhe as a full time donkey vet in 2010, followed by a second dedicated donkey vet, Dr Andy Garura, in 2013. Yusuf Piri (ex Donkey Protection Trust) has also joined the team in 2015 as a veterinary technician, and Timothy Mpofu has joined as a community development officer in Beitbridge Shashe area. The community development project aims to stop the donkey abuse at its roots by changing attitudes to animal welfare.
The AWARE-SPANA project believes in capacity building and a second CPD course for vets was run in 2014. A Clinical Skills Lab has been set up for students at the University of Zimbabwe, and Dr Andy and Dr Erick are both based at this lab at the UZ when they are not out in the rural areas.
Latest on AWARE's sterilisation programme...
AWARE has performed a total of 624 free small animal sterilisations to date, and vaccinated 6377 dogs, more than a third of which had 5n1 vaccine (which includes distemper and parvo) as well as Frontline and de-wormer. This has hopefully contributed to stopping the potential transmission of fatal diseases into wild carnivore populations. We feel our sterilisation and vaccination programme has enormous conservation value, as well as improving the welfare of village dogs, and raising awareness of animal welfare to rural people.
We are delighted to announce that thanks to a very generous benefactor, AWARE has been donated a mobile veterinary ambulance with surgical theater that is due to arrive in Zimbabwe in April 2016. We will be hiring Dr Eugene Mabika and vet nurse Rodwell Kamunda to travel around the country in the mobile unit and sterilise and vaccinate as many dogs as possible. The picture below show the interior of the clinic.
Shashe Sterilisation Campaign September 2015
The AWARE team revisited Shashe communal land in the Greater Mapungubwe Trans Frontier Conservation Area, the corner of Zimbabwe which borders both Botswana and South Africa at the confluence of the Limpopo and Shashe rivers. It is also the site of AWARE's original groundbreaking sterilisation campaign performed back in 2009. We wanted to return to an area that we had operated at previously to check what effect, if any, our original campaign had had. The dogs in this wildlife area had also not received any government rabies vaccinations, and as painted dogs pass through the area, it is crucial to prevent rabies outbreaks, and other diseases such as canine distemper, from occurring. We were fully subscribed every day, performing between 14 and 17 spays and neuters daily. By the end of the campaign we had safely operated on 73 animals, and vaccinated nearly 300 dogs. All dogs received de-wormer, and Frontline or Certifect for fleas and ticks, and many dogs were also treated for their ailments.
Sipepa Sterilisation Campaign February 2015
The AWARE team, in conjunction with the Vet Department, and accompanied by benefactors (and volunteers) Brian Rodgers and Lizzie Carrasco, has just returned from Sipepa in the Tsholotsho Communal Land on the southern border of Hwange National Park where they carried out a sterilisation and vaccination campaign of domestic dogs in which 68 dogs (mosly females) were sterilised, and more than 1900 dogs were vaccinated for rabies and dewormed. Of these, 950 dogs also received 5n1 vaccine, protecting them (and the wildlife they come into contact with) from the dreaded distemper and parvo viruses. Distemper has been known to wipe out entire prides of lions so we felt this was important to cover given the proximity of Hwange National Park. Whilst we were on the campaign 2 people (one child of 7 and one adult of 40) died of rabies in the district from being bitten by a rabid dog a month ago. Being fairly remote, they did not manage to get the post exposure rabies vaccines that can be life saving in this situation. Other tales of animals behaving strangely confirmed that rabies is rife in the area. Tick borne diseases were common amongst the dogs we saw and the first 1000 or so dogs received Frontline treatment to help protect them against the ticks. Read more in February 2015 newsletter...
Buhera sterilisation campaign February 2014
In February 2014 the AWARE team went to Mutiusinazita ('The tree with no name') in Buhera where we performed a dog sterilisation and vaccination campaign in conjunction with the Department of Veterinary Services. Late last year in Buhera a rabid hyena attacked and wounded 5 villagers, necessitating them to get preventative rabies inoculations. Subsequently there was a call for PWMA to poison the hyenas, as they were perceived as a danger to the villagers. The Vet Department is currently struggling with a shortage of resources, so in an attempt to mitigate the threat of rabies to both dogs and people, and hopefully quiet the calls for eradication of the hyenas, AWARE launched this sterilisation and vaccination initiative. AWARE vets vaccinated 1700 dogs for rabies, 200 of which also received a 5'n'1 vaccination, and 50 puppies received a parvo jab. 66 dogs were sterilised, the majority of which were lactating females in terrible condition. Approximately 750 doses of de-wormer and Frontline were also administered to the vaccinated dogs. We are appealing for financial assistance with the printing of pamphlets to explain how to handle dogs correctly, as much of the treatment of these dogs was cruel at best. Read more in March 2014 newsletter...
Victoria Falls Ndlovu Communal Area Sterilisation Campaign
AWARE recently ran its sixth pro-bono sterilisation, vaccination and basic health care campaign in the Ndlovun Communal Area in Victoria Falls. 61 more dogs and cats were neutered and a number of health problems were attended to. 453 animals were vaccinated, Frontlined and de-wormed. Read more in October 2011 Newsletter.
Kariba Sterilisation Campaign
The AWARE team went to Kariba in May 2011 and performed another 57 sterilisations for underprivileged dog and cat owners. A further 187 dogs and 13 cats were vaccinated, de-wormed and Frontlined. Read more in May 2011 newsletter...
Malapati Sterilisation Campaign
The AWARE sterilisation team ran a fourth campaign in Malapati, directly south of and adjacent to Gonarezhou National Park where they sterilised 68 dogs and 7 cats. 305 dogs were vaccinated using Merial's 7n1 plus rabies vaccine, and Frontlined and dewormed, following which Eric proceeded to Save Valley Conservancy to vaccinate a further 750 dogs. One suspected case of rabies was seen and euthanased. In the same area Eric treated 99 donkeys for a variety of conditions including tetanus and a donkey with a broken leg which was euthanased. Read more in October 2010 newsletter.
Third campaign run in Vic Falls luxury
At the request of the ZNSPCA, AWARE performed a sterilisation and vaccination programme up at Victoria Falls town between April 18 and 28, 2010. Since the town lies within the Kavango Zambezi Trans Frontier Conservation Area (KAZA TFCA) and is entirely surrounded by National Parks (flanked on the east by Victoria Falls NP and on the west by Zambezi NP), it fitted in perfectly with AWARE's objectives to mitigate the threats posed to wildlife from domestic animals. The local community got together to give the team free hotel accommodation at the first rate Elephant Hills, Ilala Lodge, Lokuthula Lodge and Victoria Falls Hotel, which made life much easier than our normal forays into the bush. By the end of the programme we had done a total of 79 sterilisations, which included 26 bitch spays, 23 dog neuters, 20 cat spays and 10 cat neuters; we had also vaccinated a total of 300 dogs for 7’n’1 and Rabies, 22 puppies for Parvo and 36 cats with 3’n’1 and Rabies. Read more in April 2010 newsletter.
Second successful sterilisation and vaccination campaign in Machuchuta
In November 2009 the AWARE Trust team went to Machuchuta Communal Land in the LSTFCA where it successfully completed the second of its dog sterilisation, vaccination and health care clinics. Machuchuta, which is 140km west of Beitbridge, is adjacent to Maramani Communal Land where the first spay campaign was run, and 24km east of the Tuli Circle Safari Area. It is more remote and less populated than Maramani. A further 55 dogs were sterilised. All dogs were vaccinated, de-wormed and Frontlined as before, and received food and their owners received a T-shirt. Blood samples were taken from each dog that was sterilised in order to determine its haematocrit (percentage of red blood cells in the blood), and to study what pathogens the dogs have been exposed to. A normal haematocrit for dogs is considered to be between 30 and 50%, below which a dog is considered to be anaemic. We were horrified at some of the haematocrit readings, which were as low as 14%, with an average of 23% and only 20/55 dogs having a haematocrit above 25%. The extreme state of nutritional stress in these animals arises mainly from being left to scavenge, lactation in females, internal and external parasites (worms, ticks and fleas), and possibly other diseases. Transmissable venereal tumour (TVT) was particularly prevalent in the dogs in Machuchuta. Read more in our November 2009 newsletter.
Groundbreaking sterilisation campaign in Maramani
In May 2009, the AWARE Trust team set out for Maramani Communal Land to perform its pilot dog sterilisation and vaccination programme. Maramani, which is 110km west of Beitbridge, was chosen because of its location within the Limpopo-Shashe (or Greater Mapungubwe) Trans-Frontier Conservation Area (LS/GMTFCA). Between the 5th and 12th of May 2009 AWARE spayed 44 bitches and castrated 46 male dogs in Maramani making a total of 90 sterilisations. 165 dogs were vaccinated, Frontlined and de-wormed and several more were treated for illness. Dogs were blood sampled for further study on exposure to pathogens. All dogs went home with 1kg of Fetch dog food to help them through their convalescence and their owners received a free T-shirt.Two cases of accidental poisoning were seen where dogs had eaten poisoned bait that was set for hyaenas. This is just one incidence of human-wildlife conflict which AWARE intends to address by means of education campaigns. Read more in our May 2009 newsletter