Darwin Animal Doctors


Archive: Aug 2017

  1. Operation Chumphon Champion; An interview with Dr. Carmen

    Operation Chumphon Champion in Thailand was a huge success! Darwin Animal Doctors worked alongside Noistar Animal Clinic, a local veterinary clinic, to run a high-impact spay/neuter campaign between May 29th and July 28th, 2017. Our goal was to spay and neuter 400 cats and dogs during our nine weeks on the ground and were successful in sterilizing 422 domesticated animals! The team crushed the goal and in the process, saved thousands of unwanted animals from being born by significantly reducing overpopulation!


    Darwin Animal Doctors had a chance to catch up with Op Chumphon Champion Campaign Leader, Dr. Carmen Barba Claassens, and she filled us in with all the incredible campaign details.


    Darwin: Tell us all about your time in Thailand during Op Chumphon Champion. What were some of the major highlights during the campaign?

    Dr. Carmen: Our campaign was a great success in terms of our spay and neuter goals, but also was a really fun and memorable experience. My time in Thailand was different from any other campaign I had ever done. One thing that really stood out was that while there were many stray animals, we didn’t see many thin and malnourished dogs like we do on many of these types of campaigns. The local Buddhist population are very kind, and generally feed the animals, which was a wonderful thing to see.


    Darwin: What were the most challenging aspects of the campaign?

    Dr. Carmen: Trapping cats and dogs was probably the most interesting and difficult part of the campaign. Luckily, Nai, one of the assistants at Noistar, provided amazing support when it came to trapping and catching. Not only did Nai know the island very well, but he had a lot of experience with trapping – and with a blow dart no less! The team and I were usually busy in the clinic, but went out to help Nai whenever we could.

    Also, we often would find ourselves catching dogs on the beach when we were just there to relax! The team would lure the dogs in at a local beach called Shark Beach with an offer of a nice treat, before putting a leash on them and giving them a sedative injection. Of course, once the leash went on, the dogs would start barking and yelping. We would realize that all the tourists in the area were watching us, trying to work out if we were helping or harming the dogs. Luckily, we were wearing our Darwin Animal Doctors’ scrub tops, so they could work out that we were helping them. But then we had to carry these 30 to 45 pound (15 to 20 kilogram) sedated dogs back to the truck! It was one of the most physically challenging parts of the campaign.


    Darwin: Between the dogs and cats, who was the more compliant patient?

    Dr. Carmen: Cats were often easier to catch than dogs because we could set out traps for them – but that’s not to say that they didn’t come with their own troubles! Many of the cats were clever and took quite a while to go inside the trap cages. Once caught, we had to transport the cats back to the clinic. The roads in Koh Tao are not particularly smooth, so driving a cat in a carrier was quite the event. One volunteer drove the scooter while another held onto the cat carriers on the back. Now you can imagine – many of these cats were feral and had never been in a carrier before. They made a terrible fuss and a lot of noise while we were driving down the street, attracting a lot of attention. One time, when I was driving the scooter and Dr. Kate was holding a feral cat in a carrier – the cat was making so much noise, it attracted some dogs who ended up chasing us down the street! We definitely were the entertainment to the neighborhood that day!

    As for dogs, the community members proactively notified us of roaming dogs, but the dogs often were gone by the time we arrived to trap them. Many of the dogs were friendly, and so we could approach them with food to catch them. Although, the idea of leashes were so foreign to them that the dogs became quickly excited and agitated once we put the leash on them. Thankfully, we had a great team of volunteers, who would sit with the dogs in the clinic to keep the dogs calm before the surgeries.


    Darwin: How is the local wildlife and environment impacted by pet overpopulation and tourism in Koh Tao?

    Dr. Carmen: We were told about the growing number of tourists in Koh Toa who had led to expansion within the town, which has unfortunately caused a decrease in wildlife and untouched beaches. There are apparently now less than two dozen sea turtles who nest on the island. It was apparent why it was so important to help reduce the rapidly expanding population of stray cats and dogs to help protect the wildlife that still called Koh Tao home.


    Darwin: How did the locals respond to our efforts in Koh Tao?

    Dr. Carmen: We meshed well with the community. The community members were enthusiastic and appreciative of our work. They donated money to help support our program, and even brought us snacks and cold drinks during the day. In addition, the team distributed flyers and hung posters around Koh Tao to raise awareness and encourage community members to bring their cats and dogs to the clinic.

    We were also able to work with the local school and provide our humane education program to approximately 300 students. Connecting with the students was a wonderful experience as we taught the importance of safe and proper animal care. The children really engaged in our activities and wanted to learn more. The children even recognized us afterwards while we were in town and would smile and wave to us! It was a truly heartwarming experience.


    Darwin: Who was your most memorable patient?

    Dr. Carmen: My most memorable patient was also my saddest – a little bird named Mien. After a community member found a baby bird, laying on the ground and abandoned, they brought Mien into the clinic to see if anything could be done for her. I took on the responsibility of looking after her, feeding her every half-hour and providing her with around-the-clock care. It was an incredible experience to watch this little creature grow and flourish. Seeing Mien begin to trust me, get to know me, and feeling the bond between us grow gave me absolute pure joy! Releasing Mien back into the wild was the happiest and saddest moment of the whole campaign. I was so happy to see her set free, but it was also so sad to watch her go.


    Darwin: What was your experience leading a team of veterinary volunteers in Thailand?

    Dr. Carmen: As campaign leader, I was so impressed with every volunteer.  Darwin Animal Doctors clinics provide hands-on experience that is life-changing for both our patients and our volunteers. After the campaign ended, our volunteer veterinarians told me how wonderful it was to join the campaign and how much they learned during their time with us. Similarly, the veterinarian students really stepped up to the plate. They picked up skills quickly and learned very fast. Every student told me how grateful they were to be a part of the campaign and all they accomplished in Thailand. Operation Chumphon Champion was a team effort between Darwin Animal Doctors and Noistar Animal Clinic and together, we made a real impact and long-lasting difference in Thailand.


    To support Darwin Animal Doctors’ efforts to reduce pet overpopulation and protect biodiversity around the world, please make your donation here. Your generosity provides life-saving care for animals in need and humane education for future generations worldwide. 


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  2. Blacky’s Story

    Santa Cruz, Galapagos

    Although the clinic provides free leashes and collars for dogs, many people still do not use them or allow their dogs to roam free.  As a result, dog-car collisions still occur in Galapagos too frequently.  The clinic has recently treated several dog-car collision cases.  Blacky’s story is one of pain, love, and hope.

    While Drs. Jochem and Daphne and clinic coordinator Sacha were away from the clinic, they learned of Blacky, a dog hit by a car and treated with a split made of cardboard.  They learned that Blacky was not bleeding but was not moving much either.

    At the same time as learning of Blacky’s injury, Blacky was arriving at the clinic.  Luckily, the clinic volunteer team was present and began to immediately treat Blacky.  Dr. Heidi took the lead.  She gave Blacky fluids and pain medication.  Blacky was breathing heavily and the team feared that she had either a collapsed lung or fluid in her lungs.  Blacky remained at the clinic overnight to monitor her breathing.


    In the morning, Blacky’s breathing had not improved.  The arranged for Blacky to be seen at the one X-ray center in Puerto Aroya. The X-ray showed that Blacky had a collapsed lung.  Using butterfly needle and syringe, Drs. Jochem and Daphne sucked the air out of the rib cage so that that the lung could expand into its normal shape.  This helped immediately and Blacky’s breathing improved.


    Treating Blacky’s leg was easier.  The leg was broken but there was no open wound.  Her leg was in better shape than other dogs who were hit by cars.  The team put a cast on her leg and it is healing well.


    Blacky’s guardians were excited to see that she was doing well.  During Blacky’s stay at the clinic, they came every few hours during our open clinic hours to check on her.  They even brought a few friends see Blacky.


    Blacky was one of the lucky ones.  She lives with loving human companions who did everything they could to make sure she received the best treatment.  The team wishes Blacky many years enjoying long walks (on a leash).

    Help us save the lives of more animals like Blacky. Donate today.

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  3. Update on D’Yaria, the Rescued Jaguar Cub

    D’Yaria the rescued jaguar cub is making significant progress towards complete recovery! Every day is a step closer to her freedom, back to the forests of Ecuador alongside her kind*.

    The courageous little jaguar cub is currently isolated from all human contact in an outdoor nature park, monitored by her primary veterinarian, Dr. John Castillo, and Parque Turistico Nueva Loja.

    D’Yaria is learning to be wild again. She is hunting prey and becoming quite the skillful swimmer. Watch D’Yaria in action in the video below, recently captured via trail camera in June.


    Darwin Animal Doctors needs your help to keep D’Yaira safe once she is re-released into the wild!

    We are purchasing an advanced collar that will grow with D’Yaria and last two years in the elements. This collar is essential to tracking D’Yaria’s progress and advancing long-term jaguar conservation efforts in Ecuador. The collar costs a total of $2,500 and we only have $300 left to raise!

    Contribute to D’Yaria’s future today! Choose your tax-deductible gift below.




    Thank you for supporting Darwin Animal Doctors and making D’Yaria’s homecoming a reality!


    * D’Yaria is a young jaguar cub who was found shot in the forests of Ecuador. Dr. Andres Ortega and his team saved D’Yaria, with support from our vet Dr. Cris Cely, after performing the two spinal surgeries D’Yaria needed last year. Donate today and help D’Yaria return to the wild!

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  4. Saving Wild Sumatra: How To Save Wildlife, Protect the Rainforests, and Provide Humane Education.

    Washington, DC.

    On Sunday, August 6, 2017 in Washington, DC, Darwin Animal Doctors President and Co-founder Tod Emko joined veteran wildlife and earth defense campaigner Julie Henry to announce the Darwin Animal Doctors’ new campaign: Saving Wild Sumatra.

    During a presentation on the state of animal protection in Asia at a national conference for protecting animals, Henry and Emko premiered the trailer for the upcoming documentary Saving Wild Sumatra.  This documentary follows their investigation and meetings in Sumatra in 2016 (click here to see the documentary trailer).  Henry and Emko met with local wildlife campaigners, government officials, poachers, former poachers, and school children and their teachers to forge a path to develop relationships and communication to protect the forests and the forest animals threatened by the increasing demand for palm oil.


    Sumatra is one of the last places on the planet where elephants, tigers, rhinos, and orangutans live together.  The forests of Sumatra are home to an exceptional array of wildlife under threat, including the clouded leopard and critically endangered Sumatran rhino whose population has dropped to less than 100 individuals.  In line with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals to protect life on land, Darwin Animal Doctors will be launching a humane education program with local community partners to address wildlife conservation.  Darwin Animal Doctors and local community partners will also organize a local environmental festival.

    Although the 2017 conference is the first time that Darwin Animal Doctors presented, the organization has exhibited at the conference for several years.  Exhibiting provides an excellent opportunity to meet new supporters, recruit new volunteers, and to spread the humane education message in our A Piggy’s Tail graphic novel.  Of course, the crime fighting and animal rescuing superhero three-legged dog Piggy was on hand to discuss this important work and to receive treats and belly rubs.


    For more information on the campaign to save Sumatra and to see the trailer to the documentary, please visit the new campaign website at www.savingwildsumatra.com.


    Join us in our efforts to Save Wild Sumatra. Donate today.

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  5. Lucky wasn’t so lucky

    Santa Cruz, Galapagos

    One Thursday evening around 7pm, a couple came into the clinic with their dog. He had been hit by a car approximately 20 minutes before coming into the clinic. He had some deep wounds in his leg, and after an examination by volunteers Dr. Roxanne and Dr. Bianca, the Doctors realized that the leg was broken. As the team informed the owners, they became very distressed, and began to cry. Sacha needed to further explain that it was possible that they might need to amputate the leg, and that even if they did not have to straight away, then it would rely very heavily on the couple’s consistency in returning to the clinic for check-ups. Sacha sat with the couple and tried to comfort them, explaining that the Doctors would do whatever was possible to save the leg, but that if they needed to remove it, a dog could still happily lead a life on three legs.

    The Doctors took Lucky into the clinic to examine her closely. She had been panting, and they needed to make sure that she was stable after the incident. On further examination of the leg, they still could not be sure that they would be able to save it; the wounds were quite excessive, and the break seemed quite severe. The owners had agreed for the Doctors to do whatever was possible to save the leg, so the team anaesthetized Lucky to begin cleaning the wounds and seeing if it would be possible to cast Lucky’s leg.


    As the surgery began, Dr. Roxanne realized that the break was worse than expected; Lucky’s leg would have to be amputated.

    Dr. Daphne called the family as Dr. Roxanne and Dr. Bianca begun the amputation surgery. The family was upset that Lucky would have to lose his leg. Thankfully, Mayra stepped in and continued the conversation with the couple so that they were well informed and comfortable with what was going on.

    At about midnight, the team had finally finished the long and difficult surgery. The amputation was a great success, and Lucky was well on his way to recovery. The Doctors would continue to monitor the pup’s progress to ensure that the healing process continues well. Check back in with us to see how Lucky is going!


    Support Darwin Animal Doctors’ life-saving campaigns! Become a monthly donor today.

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  6. Supporter Spotlight; Sarah Darling

    This month, Darwin Animal Doctors shines our spotlight on an amazing supporter and all around animal protector. Sarah Darling is a London-raised artist who made her home in Galapagos 25 years ago. Sarah is known throughout the Galapagos Islands for her kind-hearted nature, her amazing art, and for her house of rescued street cats. Sarah lives in a living work of art – a mosaic filled house with 18 rescued street cats and her three rescued street dogs. During that time, Sarah has lived by a simple motto: the best thing you can do in life is to help an animal.

    Sarah believes in leading by example. She was probably the first person to ever walk a dog on a leash in Puerto Ayora, the main town in the Galapagos Islands and she has rescued many cats during the past 25 years. Since Darwin Animal Doctors open its clinic and began treating animals in the Galapagos, Sarah has been a strong ally and supporter.

    The real start of Sarah’s Galapagos rescue journey was Neptune, her first rescued dog. A friend found him wandering in the in the main square of Bella Vista, a town in the highlands of Santa Cruz. He was not much more than skin and bone and looked like the walking dead. In 2003, prior to the arrival of Darwin Animal Doctors, the sight of a starving, skinny street dog searching for food scraps was not uncommon on the four human-inhabited islands in the Galapagos. Sarah recounts seeing a huge number of street dogs on Santa Cruz Islands during this time, none of whom seemed to have a home or caregiver.

    Neptune; as he looked when he was found in Bella Vista


    Lucky for Neptune, Sarah and her friend pleaded with the government veterinarian to help save Neptune’s life. The compassionate vet worked alongside Sarah and her friend to save Neptune. For the first month, the poor pup was ill. With Sarah’s love, attention, and care, Neptune made a full recovery. Sarah began to walk him on a leash throughout Puerto Ayora. This leading by example and showing Neptune’s recovery was a clear demonstration of what love and care can do to a dog or cat.


    Since Neptune’s rescue and successful recovery, Sarah has opened her home to many other animals in need of help and a home. When Darwin Animal Doctors opened their doors in 2010, many cats were rescued from the streets or left at the clinic with no place for them to go. Thankfully for these cats, Sarah came to their aid and began adopting them. Sarah now has 18 cats, in perfect health who live in harmony in Sarah’s incredible home. Sarah has built them a protected, art filled outdoor play area, multiple different mosaic perches and many comfortable beds. Sarah’s three dogs are equally spoiled and can often be seen walking through town with Sarah or sitting with her in her art gallery “Angelique Art Gallery” in the centre of Puerto Ayora.


    Not only has Sarah been a lifesaver to many animals and an advocate for their proper care and treatment, she is an incredible supporter of Darwin Animal Doctors. Sarah is one of the main organisers of the annual Hash House Harriers run, an annual fun run through town to raise money and awareness for Darwin Animal Doctors. Sarah is also known to host the clinic volunteers. And she dedicated her time and effort to creating the beautiful Darwin Animal Doctors mosaic and logo that now decorates the clinic’s entrance.

    Sarah recalls seeing a huge change in the population over the last seven years. Since the introduction of Darwin Animal Doctor’s humane education programs and having a fulltime vet in the Darwin Animal Doctors’ clinic, the human residents have come to understanding the need to sterilize cats and dogs and the importance of proper care for their animals. The young people are a big part of these positive changes. Young people are spreading the message of proper care and treatment of cats and dogs and more and more children bring cats and dogs found on the street into the DAD clinic.

    A huge thank you Sarah, for all the animals you have gifted with a beautiful life, for all the times you have supported the Darwin Animal Doctors clinic, and for spreading your kindness and caring attitude to animals worldwide through your beautiful art.

    If you are ever in Puerto Ayora, we encourage you to drop by Sarah’s art gallery to drop in and say hi, and to check out her wonderful art – where you will likely see Sarah’s favorite saying hidden in amongst the art: “Animals are little angels sent to teach us to love”.

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