Workshop April 2024

18/06/2024

Mara North Conservancy Dog Project, Workshop April 2024

The April 2024 workshop is over and done, and all but one of the veterinary students have left Karen Blixen Camp. The remaining student, Frederikke, is staying another 10 days to follow up on the surgeries. She will visit the dog owners and assess the post-surgical healing and also inquire into the postoperative behavior of the dogs.

In spite of heavy rains during the first days of the workshop, we managed to neuter 54 dogs (21 females and 23 males), coming not only from Mararienda, but also from Aitong, Lemek Hills, Kilometa and Olorork Village. It is very important to expand intothe most remote corners of MNC and not just focus on Mararienda. So, our indispensable veterinary technician, James Nayetuni, from Mararienda, makes a huge effort to cover the entire conservancy when he goes to inform the communities and to sign up dogs for surgeries.

Participants

As usual, we had 5 Danish, 3 Kenyan and 2 American veterinary students participating in the workshop. The rotations include anesthesia (supervised by Dr. Sofie Skak Johanson), surgery (supervised by Dr. Specioza Chelang’at, Dr. Anne Hoegh Andersen and Dr. Leonard Kibet), clinical examination (supervised by Dr. Rikke Langebæk) and perioperative assignments (supervised by Dr. Stephen DeVincent). In addition to the 10 student team members in the clinic, the workshop also included two veterinary students performing specific diagnostic tests to determine whether the dogs have tick-borne diseases and/or zoonotic parasites. Such tests help to provide a more complete assessment of the overall health of the dogs. Finally, the project had the pleasure of hosting a representative from Narok County, Dr. Matthew Nchoka, who is a former participant from our very first workshop in 2019.

The ninth workshop

Having completed a workshop for the eighth time, it is wonderful to experience the development of the project and witness the growth of confidence of the students as the week progresses. Everyone knows their responsibilities and challenges, and how to deal with them. And the dog owners in the MNC communities know who we are and why we are here, and in general the communities appreciate our efforts.

We have encountered a few dog owners that were concerned at the prospect of one day not being able to get new dogs if we neuter all the ones that are in the conservancy. So, we have made a significant effort at communicating that we will never reach that point as the current estimate of the number of dogs in the Conservancy is 3,000. James, who vaccinates all the new puppies at the age of 6 months, reports that approximately 600 puppies are still being born each year. And as we can only spay or castrate 100-110 dogs per year, MNC will never run out of dogs! In fact, the dog population control cannot rely on these surgeries alone, but must also rely on communicating information on dog health and husbandry. We are therefore pleased to observe that people in Mararienda seem to have fewer dogs compared to when the MNC Dog project started, and that the dogs, in general, look healthier than before.

“Export” to other villages

James also reports that the number of stray, un-owned dogs in the center of Mararienda has dropped considerably. It is this trend that we hope to be able to ‘export’ to other villages and towns in MNC. A main contribution to securing dog (and human) health is, of course, that we ensure that all dogs are being vaccinated against rabies as well as distemper, parvovirus and hepatitis.

Apart from the satisfying results in relation to the clinic and the dogs, one of the great joys of the project is to experience the obvious growth in the individual students participating in the workshop. Being relatively nervous on their first day of surgery, the students end up performing castrations all on their own (though appropriately supervised) on the last day when we go into the field to create a mobile clinic. This time, the team managed to castrate 14 dogs when we set up our tent in Lemek Hills – a new record! The field day requires a lot of organizing and thankfully, we received valuable assistance from Serian Camp. Thank you, Serian!

Take home messages

When the students were asked to describe their most important ‘take home messages’ or concept they had learnt, from this workshop they mentioned issues such as:

  • Coping under very basic clinical conditions
  • Gaining more confidence, surgically, and in general
  • Not panicking when surgery becomes challenging
  • The importance of a supportive learning environment
  • The pleasure of being ‘un-plugged’ from social media for a number of days
  • Experiencing team spirit
  • Gaining knowledge and friends from other cultures
  • Experiencing personal growth
  • Discovering the existence of the esophageal stethoscope 

Most students apply for the Workshop to gain more surgical experience. But, as the statements illustrate, they go home with much more.

The students, supervisors and assistants are essential to the MNC Dog Project. However, the staff at Karen Blixen Camp is equally important, always being positive and ready to help. Without them, nothing would be possible!

Finally, we wish to thank our donors, Animal Protection, DK (Dyrenes Beskyttelse), Karen Blixen Camp Trust, QATO Fund, Zoetis and Boerhinger/Ingelheim.

And thank you to e-vet for donating utensils for the workshop.

Participating team

The student participants were:

DENMARK

Emmelie Fausø Schødts

Pernille Sundwall Hansen

Amalie Weile Jeberg

Cecilie Kjøller

Emma Feline Wimdrup Bøjer

Oscar Winner Vraae Bramsted

Steffen Kjær Hemmingsen Møller

Frederikke Juncker Høegh

KENYA

Brian Sawe

Brenda Machoka

Wambugu Ronnie

USA

Alissa Jagielski

Elise Westervelt

NAROK COUNTY REPRESENTATIVE

Dr. Matthew Nchoka

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