October 30, 2009

A Life or Death Sentence for Sabrina the Dog.

October 25, 2009:  Iquitos, Peru

by Molly Mednikow

I have been blogging about our visit to the Amazon Animal Orphanage.  Nobody could actually describe things more clearly than the Vet Adventurer himself, Luke Gamble.  So be sure to read his thoughts on the day on his blog

We continue to delay our river voyage as emergency cases turn up.  We visited a very poor family with a 10 year old dog, Sabrina. She had such massive tumors hanging from her mammary glands that even walking had become difficult and painful for her. The family live as many families do in Iquitos.  They have a pre-teen and two children under 5 in a two room hut with a combo tin and dried grass roof. Other features included a queen sized mattress on a bed frame, a hammock across the middle of the room, a fridge, gas stove, a assortment of roosters, hens, chickens, and baby chicks. They had a TV and a booming stereo system. They had a rustic outdoor shower outside the kitchen, a large backyard filled with an array of trash or treasure, and a second "bathroom" at the back of the yard.

The front room had a concrete floor and was basically empty. They kept their door locked and windows open and children and some adults come to knock on the windowsill to request medicines, candy, cold drinks, etc. The tiny store had a bit of everything! The man in the family, named, seriously, "Hitler," is a "Nurse Technician," which, honestly, could mean anything.  But apparently this was the neighborhood "pharmacy."  No prescriptions needed.

Luke and Veterinarian Annie Cook performed a 3 hour operation to remove the massive breast cancer tumors from Sabrina.  They estimated she had born ten litters of puppies.  Luke has described so much about her condition on his blog today.  Check out his entry entitled "Sabrina."  He is too humble to mention the conditions that he faced while operating on her.  Removing cancerous mammary glands can be quite tricky as several central veins run through this area.  Had Luke cut one, things would have turned very bad, very quickly.  I watched a large part of the surgery and learned a great deal, and Luke has amazing techniques to prevent such disasters.

The surgery was performed in sweltering heat and humidity.  During the last half hour, however, it began to rain.  Hard.  Luke finished the surgery crouching under tree branches and under a thin shower curtain two men held over the surgery table.  I had come along as a translator, and spent most of the time off camera.  During the downpour I huddled in the house with the kids, puppies, assorted chicks, roosters and a hen trying to lay eggs on the bed. 

We brought Sabrina back to the CARES clinic for recovery.  I slept next to her on the floor for an hour at one point during the night.  Annie and Luke came to check on her and "relieved me," although it wasn´t a burden to watch over and keep this loving animal warm.  I returned to a bed upstairs and at some point I heard the door close downstairs.  This is when Luke left at 4:45 AM.  He apparently spent some quality time on the floor comforting Sabrina as well.  I went down and added to the small pillow he´d placed on the floor and showed her affection until I fell asleep.  I am unsure at what hour the Vets came in again, but they are so thorough in their careful monitoring that I´m sure I wasn´t asleep on the floor for long.

With the Amazon CARES team already in CaballoCocha on their trip with Worldwide Veterinary Service volunteers, Luke decided it would be best to monitor Sabrina 24 hours a day by bringing her on the boat.  We are finally off on our river voyage on "La Neñita" for four days.

Support for the CaballoCocha spay/neuter project is being provided by the Brigitte Bardot Foundation.  Their grant has paid for all needed medicines.  The Worldwide Veterinary Service generously provided eight veterinary volunteers as well as in-kind donations.

To learn more this exciting documentary which will feature Amazon CARES, visit Red Earth Studios.

*Check back for updates on Sabrina.

Nurses "Dream" is to Hold Huge Rodent!?!

Well, maybe not a rodent, more like a giant guinea pig!

October 20, 2009
by Veterinarian Naimi Collins

Hi there,

I’m Naima, a vet nurse from England. I work in small animal practice at home but have always had a keen interest in animal welfare around the world. When the opportunity arose with the WVS to help the street dogs in Peru I jumped at the chance. The beauty of this project is that you really can see the difference Amazon Cares makes.

The work is challenging and exciting at the same time! Living in the jungle and getting a boat along the Amazon River every day to get to work is anything but mundane. Yesterday above the meat market we had queues of people with their animals for treatments of all kinds. It’s interesting trying to communicate what’s needed in a different language, causing quite a few laughs at the same time.

On my second day I managed to get bitten by a capuchin monkey in the jungle wildlife rescue reserve! I also managed to hold the largest rodent/rat in the world which was so exciting for me as I have rescue ratties of my own at home.

The team I am with is a great bunch of people and the whole experience is so rewarding. The work of the local vets is amazing; the place is friendly, buzzy and full of culture. I am very proud to be working for the WVS and Amazon cares.

 Naima prepares for a free mobile veterinary clinic with supplies donated by the Worldwide Veterinary Service and the Brigitte Bardot Foundation.

Our volunteer activities are so important. You can help support our cause by purchasing a beautiful 2010 desk calendar and each donation of $30 or more will receive a complimentary calendar as well.


October 25, 2009

A Monkey, A Macaw and Two Successful Jungle Surgeries

As I discussed in yesterday´s blog, the extreme documentary film crew featuring Worldwide Vet Luke Gamble visited the Amazon Animal Orphanage.  The Animal Orphange is an Official Temporary Custody Center for illegally traded and captured wildlife.  I stayed out of sight while the crew worked, grateful for the opportunity to think and revel in amazement at the surroundings. The howler monkeys were making quite a racket, and not at all what I expected.  Their howls were low and loud growls that seemed to come from a much larger animal.

Though I take many CARES volunteers to the Butterfly Farm and Animal Orphanage, there is always some tidbit I come away with that I did not know before. Today, some of what I learned was very sad.  Many people capture monkeys to trade or to keep as pets.  When doing so, they commit a very inhumane act against these poor monkeys.  They cut their front molars so that the monkeys won´t bite them.  They do it with no regard for the pain of the monkey.  Imagaine the pain of having two teeth broken in half, with all the nerves exposed.

A poor monkey at the animal orphanage has suffered from chronic dental pain for years.  Her gums and teeth are constantly infected, as the infection has no place to drain off due to half her tooth being left inside each socket.  To the amazement of many, Luke performed very delicate dental surgery and cleanly extracted the two tooth remnants from the monkey!

The day also featured the removal of a tumor from a beautiful, brightly colored Macaw.

Now we are off on our river voyage on "La Neñita" for four days.  Thank you Dr. Devon Graham of http://www.projectamazonas.org/ for always being generous and providing services to Amazon CARES at cost.

To learn more this exciting documentary which will feature Amazon CARES, visit Red Earth Studios.

October 22, 2009

Smelly meat market is temporary surgery clinic!

October 20, 2009 by Vet Nurse Volunteer Debbie Baird
Photos by Maria Faena

Our day started with another delicious breakfast prepared by Marlena and then we headed off to Iquitos in our boat, arriving at the Amazon Cares clinic at 9.45.  We are starting our clinic at Belen meat market today so all supplies needed transporting there which was ably done by the Amazon CARES team, with a little help from us.

The meat market was something altogether different! Situated in very poor area amidst a heaving street market selling all types of food, fish, meat and more.  Inside the huge building the downstairs was a meat and fish market, the smell and mess was unbelievable, but we walked through it and upstairs to our ¨clinic´´ area, very spacious with long butchers tables along one wall. The only water available was what we took ourselves, but it served as a suitable venue. Funnily we shared the space with 5 pigs which had been confiscated by the authorities for illegal entry by their owners. They were inoffenive and stayed in their ´´patch´´ only poking their heads around the corner to try and join us when we were eating our lunch.

Already when we arrived there was a line of locals with their pets milling around freely, its nice that these animals are alays quite amenable mixing together...it wouldn´t be like that in the UK. Although there are vets and staff from the Iquitos clinic here who speak Spanish, they don´t speak very much English and in our team some can speak a little Spanish but the locals speak no English;, so communication is difficult making a slow start to the clinic as we were trying to sort clinical cases from surgical cases. As always it happened eventually, and those being treated for worms amd ectoparasites/mange were treated by Hazel at one end of the table while Esther, Maria and Annie were busy neutering at the other end.

The anaesthetic machine could maintain two animals at one time so the third vet did castrates under a triple combination anaesthetic. We were continually watched and photo'd and filmed throughout the day, but I noticed not many owners actually watched their pet being neutered!

There was a buzzy, happy atmosphere all day, the whole team is really relaxed and professional, making it so much easier for us to gel and work confidently together. Throughout the buzzards were scrambling about on the roof and peering through the gaps watching us...a good horror film could be made here! My motor taxi awaits.  More later!

Note from Molly Mednikow, Director:

Debbie is a calming influence with a wonderful sense of humor!  Her first encounter with Amazon wildlife occurred in her shower at Cabo Lopez.  She gamely captured it on film.  Photo by Debbie Baird.

October 19, 2009

Monkeys, Dogs and Pigs?

October 18, 2009 by Molly Mednikow

We have four volunteers here!  Maria Faena arrived from Italy and Naima Collins arrived from the UK.  Naima and Maria arrived Saturday and we had time to visit the clinic and mak introductions before heading to our jungle facility, Cabo Lopez, by boat.  On Sunday, a day that NOBODY works, I always feel lucky to have dedicated shelter employees that come in to help the animals.  The five of us ventured out to the Pilpintuwasi Butterfly Farm and Animal Orphange.  The Orphanage was named an Official Center of Custody for rescued animals in 2004, the same year that CARES came into being!

After a very long, hot walk in the sun, we arrived and were greeted by a resident!  We locked up our belongings as one Capuchin Monkey had been trained as a skilled pickpocket!

We learned many interesting facts about butterflys as well, including the common Peruvian myth that butterflys come from flowers.  Thus, many Peruvians kill large catepillars thinking they are ugly worms.  This is causing early extinction for some of the most beautiful species.

October 19, 2009 by Molly Mednikow

We have a very hardworking team here!  I now realize it would be impossible for me to keep the blog up-to-date daily!  Two Veterinarians took a cargo ship to Iquitos, and as I could easily predict, they are arriving 4-5 days late.  It throws us short of Veterinarians and leaves the Vet Nurses without enough to do.  Yet, we are still accomplishing a lot!  Today we brought in ill street dogs and 1 cat, and conducted 10 surgeries in a 3.5 hour period!  We returned to Cabo Lopez for a delicious dinner cooked by Marlena, who also lives on the property and is 8 months pregnant!  She is a wonderful chef and handles vegans, vegetarians, non-dairy eaters with ease.  After two rounds of Twenty Questions, which I do not seem to have a natural talent for playing, we retired.  Maria took this photo of Carolien underneath her mosquito netting,

Today is our first BIG mobile clinic campaign above the Belen Meat Market.   See what this entails by watching the professional short video featuring Actor Andrew Keegan at http://bit.ly/44kqet.   Late Monday afternoon, a representative from the Belen municipality arrived to tell Bruno, the coordinator, of some problems.  Despite having signed an agreement days ago, Belen was already renegging on certain items!  Our location had been designated already!  Officials were taking tougher stands on the illegal wildlife trade, which could not make us happier.  However, they had taken over our surgery space and filled it with...PIGS!  We're off and we'll see what happens!

October 17, 2009

Vet Nurse First Impressions of CARES & Iquitos

 October 17, 2009, Iquitos, Peru
by Vet Nurse Debbie Baird

Hi I´m Debbie Baird and I come from UK. this is my first trip with Amazon Cares but not my first volunteer experience. I am a vet nurse, in the UK I do locum work. I joined WVS a year ago and have done 3 trips to
Croatia on a cat neutering project in the elephante islands. I only got home a week ago from the last trip. When I joined the Worldwide Veterinary Service it was with a Peru trip in mind, but it never happened in 2008, but  I was ready at short notice to do this trip. I live with my 4 children on a small farm in Surrey where I run a horse livery yard.  My daughter competes in eventing on home produced horses, so that is all fairly time consuming but great fun. I have an assortment of pets including a diabetic cat (aged 17), 3 dogs (One is aged 17), 2 goats (aged 18), chickens and my daughter´s first pony, aged 25 (same as her!). My 3 sons don´t do horses and are all aged 20 and above so my adventures are now possible once I have the animals sorted! I did have a bit of a conscience about being away so long, but my philosophy in life these days is `life is for living so íf you want to do it, and it is possible, do it!  I arrived in Lima last night and travelled up to Iquitos this morning. 

Iquitos is a buzzy, bright and friendly place not like anywhere I´ve seen before. Molly was at the airport to meet me along with 2 volunteer nurses, Carolien from Holland and Hazel from UK. Molly is lovely and enthusiastic and inexhaustible and I´ve only known her a couple of hours! Street dogs are all around and it was amazing to see two dogs lying together, one really friendly dog in great condition having been neutered and treated for mange by Amazon Cares (as evidenced by an inner ear tattoo) and one which growled at us.   He suffered with terrible mange and an infected leg.  We will catch him in a few hours when the clinic reopens from the long lunch period. This is what makes this type of work so rewarding...Many dogs treated by CARES still live as street dogs, but in good health. I am looking forward to later today when we get on a boat and head down the Amazon to sleep somewhere in the jungle.....

October 17, 2009, Iquitos, Peru
by Vet Nurse Carolien Grim

Hi everyone, my name is Carolien and I am from Holland. At home I work at an exotic animal rescue called ´Stichting AAP´.  I am the teamleader of the quarantaine. We rescue, amongst other things, monkeys, squirrels, chimpansees, racoons, dingo´s, bats, kangaroos, coati´s and much more basically everything that is exotic for Europe. We get them back to health and try to socialize them with their own species. Once we are successfull we try and rehome them with wildlife parks and good zoos.

This year I joined the charity World Veterinary Services (WVS) and  that´s how I ended up in Iquitos - Peru. They were asking for a team of vets and nurses to come out here and help neuter lots of dogs in villages along the amazon river. Thats my idea of a holiday:-) Its my first trip with WVS and I am really excited about being here. I got  here yesterday and met Molly and could see the great work she and her team is doing out here.
The dogs that have been neutered look much healthier than the ones that have not been. Today we saw a dog that is covered in scabs, probably mange, it looked like he had an infection on one of his legs and overall he did not look very happy. In a few houre we will go back to catch him and treat him and castrate him of course...

I can´t tell much at the time cause I have only been here one day, except for that its very hot and humid and the amazon river looks amazing can´t wait to get on a boat...  Molly made sure to introduce tme to a few Amazon specialties (and warned me of some too!).  I tried¨Chicha Morada, a sweet grape colored drink made from black corn.  We also enjoyed frozen smoothies made of 100% Camu Camu fruit.  The drink is pink, and tastes like a light strawberry with a hint of lemon. 

October 17, 2009, Iquitos, Peru
by Vet Nurse Hazel Taylor

Hi, I am Hazel and I come from the UK. This is the first trip I have done with WVS. At the moment I am very tired as I flew straight through from London overnight and I am also hot and sticky, so am not sure why I decided to come on this trip. It seemed a good idea at the time, something to do with adventure, doing something worthwhile, and it would be good for me.

Although I have been a vet. nurse for many years, I have not been in conventional practice for about 8 years, and have been working at a wildlife hospital, so I hope I can remember what to do. Let´s hope its like riding a bicycle - once learned, never forgotten. Looking forward to taking trip up Amazon river.

Vet Teams Arriving in Iquitos!

I am trying to provide as many real-time updates as possible, so keep up with us at www.twitter.com/amazoncares or on our Twitter feed on the home page of www.amazoncares.org.   by Molly Mednikow, Executive Director, Amazon Community Animal Rescue, Education and Safety

October 16, 2009, Iquitos, Peru:

Due to a flight delay I arrived today.  So did Veterinary Nurse Carolien Grim from Amsterdam, Holland.  It didn´t make sense from a transport and time standpoint to sleep at Cabo Lopez, the jungle facility, so I stayed above the vet clinic and we put Carolien in a nice hostal across the street.  When we arrived at the in-town CARES vet clinic in town there was a flurry of activity!   Following through on one of our goals, our Vets were hosting a Veterinarian from Lima, Peru who demonstrated new equipment and the attending  Veterinarians all got to observe wildlife veterinary work on an exotic bird with a tumor on his foot.

Caroline worked with our wonderful Vet Nurse, Behtjane, to prepare materials for our mobile spay/neuter clinic on Monday.  Many of the materials were great items brought by Carolien.  Like me, she had more animal supplies in her suitcase than personal items!

October 17, 2009, Iquitos, Peru: 

Welcome to two more Vet Nurses today!  They  graciously agreed to write about themselves, and I am going to post these in a new blog post!