April 3, 2010

Dr. Annie Cook in Peru for new Spey / Neuter Campaigns: A Brilliant Blog!

Click here to lend your support to: Vet Trips are Worth the Cost and make a donation at www.pledgie.com ! To THE CURRENT CAMPAIGN.

Annie Cook working (pictured in background of the picture to the left).

It is fabulous to be back in Iquitos. The heat is overwhelming as always and my head is pounding. It is definitely the only place in the world where I drink in excess of my 2 litres a day. The city is so busy and noisy. Mototaxis whizz past in the street, a dog dodges the traffic and meanders up the foot path, workmen stand on the corner and haggle over goods, a woman walks past with a tray of exotic fruits for sale and an old man sit in his doorframe watching the world pass by. Away from the buzzing mototaxis the city is calmer, people are relaxed and friendly greeting me with a smile and often an embrace. It is such a change from my life in the UK. There is the obvious temperature difference – I was still wearing a winter coat when I left on Friday. Then there is the commute. I am not dodging cars, applying my makeup between changing gears, scoffing a piece of toast if I had time to make it and yelling at the jam of traffic in front of me. Here the day starts with the sun filtering through the screens, the sounds of insects and birds in the trees and the occasional dog bark. Breakfast is at the table with fresh fruit, juice, eggs and toast. The journey to work is a thirty minute speed boat ride along the river with the chance of a pink river dolphin to delay the trip rather than a broken down car that jams the motorway. The river is busy, there are fisherman throwing their nets, long boats so laden with bananas that water splashes the gunnels, rafts of timber heading to market, a woman washing her clothes whilst her children bath in the water.

Arriving at work there is the anticipation of what the day will bring. In the UK I might expect to treat forty patients a day with the only spectator being the owner of the animal. I will stand behind the table in my air-conditioned room with an array of medicines and equipment to assist me and my patients will arrive in baskets or on leads. The majority will be in good physical condition if not a little overweight. In Iquitos my patients come in nets or with rope around some body part to prevent them fleeing. My consulting room is in the street under a tarpaulin and I might have thirty people watching. The animals are thin and carrying an array of parasites, some dogs so affected that there is not a hair left on their skin. Working with Amazon Cares is an opportunity to provide frontline care to those that need it most.

We have set up a mobile neutering clinic for stray animals in a Plaza at the edge of the city centre. The Amazon Cares team consists of Bruno, Esther (pictured below), Bethjane, Harry and me and we are joined by volunteer vets Anne and Florence from France and Peruvian vet, Ines.

We have neutered 28 animals so far in the campaign and treated them for skin problems, chest infections and parasites. The response from the community has been inspiring. The local government has been very supportive and assisted with setting up each day and many people come to watch and inquire about our work. We are quite a spectacle – a row of red tents beneath which 5 veterinarians perform surgery on dogs. To the uninformed it must be bewildering and one small child asked her father the other day “why are they killing them?” It is for this reason that the mobile clinic is an invaluable opportunity to educate local people and raise awareness about animal welfare. Many observers have congratulated us for our efforts and others have requested to have their animals neutered at the Amazon Cares veterinary clinic in the future as this campaign is only for stray animals. The neutering campaign has so far been very successful and will continue around the city until April 10th. There is also an outreach clinic next week in Caballo Cocha coordinated by Bruno together with our two volunteer veterinarians Anne and Florence.   Read more about our trip to the very remote Caballo Cocha in November 2009...

Veterinary and non-veterinary volunteers are always welcome in Iquitos.  We are launching a new program that welcomes volunteers for longer term visits than our planned 2-3 week trips.  Learn more and download an application on our website at http://www.amazoncares.org/.

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