Darwin Animal Doctors


Archive: Nov 2020

  1. Emphasis Education

    Education is a big part of what we do at Darwin Animal Doctors, whether it’s the incredible Youth Rangers Programme: the hands on community engagement, conservation programme we spoke about a few weeks ago, which encourages communities and children to have their voices heard and make a change; or Piggy’s humane education curriculum, rooted in the wonderful A Piggy’s Tale comic books, and being taught at home in the US and around the world. So it can come as no surprise that we partner with many schools in many countries around the world, as well as community education initiatives.

    Just recently, Hadee donated her birthday fundraiser to the Sapo Zuma Zuma school, https://www.facebook.com/sumatrasapozumazuma, in Sumatra, Indonesia. Sapo Zuma Zuma is a free school which provides conservation, English language and traditional dance classes to local children. Their emphasis is on the importance of protecting nature for the future.

    Sapo Zuma Zuma is just one of the schools on the edge of the Gunung Leuser National Park: the last place on Earth where tigers, elephants, rhinos and orangutans co-exist, that we partner with. Another is the Bukit Lawang Trust, https://www.facebook.com/BukitLawangTrust, an education based community project that runs free English classes, kindergarten, conservation education and other programmes.

    Since we started working with the communities in this area of Sumatra, we’ve had children complete the first phase of the Youth Ranger programme, learning forestry skills, English, and vocational skills, and patrolling with the rangers in the Leuser Ecosystem rainforest. We’ve also had the children learning A Piggy’s Tale, in lessons in English language and humane education in the classrooms.

    We’ve worked with the National Park rangers in the rainforest, in their school set up to educate children on the importance of their ecosystem and to give them alternatives to the palm oil industry, and we’ve been directly to the surrounding colleges and universities to implement these programmes in Sumatra.

    In the Dominican Republic, the schools we work with see a heart-breaking number of at-risk children. The local environment has been ravaged by natural disasters, and the economy poor. The schools themselves have just the bare bones of infrastructure.

    Despite these hardships, and admittedly a somewhat rocky start, Proteccion Animal Cabrera, https://www.facebook.com/proteccionanimalcabrera, our local partner persevered in implementing Piggy’s Animal Guardians programme. The humane education programme has seen groups of highly at-risk children making presentations on animals and their ecosystem, working cooperatively in groups, and making stories about animals and why we need to care more for them. The transformation in the children has been amazing.

    The children, with their amazing teachers, completed a 6 week pilot of Piggy’s humane education program in 2019, and this year they’ve completed eight more sessions in a small mountain school. An additional two schools have started the program but have yet to finish due to the shut down.

    In Puerto Rico, much of our focus was on rebuilding, following hurricane Maria late in 2017. We began rebuilding schools around Morovis, starting with three, then five, with the schools using our humane curriculum as we rebuilt. Our partners at the Las Cabachuelas Nature Reserve, https://www.facebook.com/proyectocabachuelas, in Morovis, along with students from our local school partners, took part in our rebuilding program, building sustainable gardens and hands-on science labs. A lot of the focus was on getting the kids outside, moving, learning about their world by exploring it and empathizing with the animals they see.

    Worldwide, for each school we reach, many more schools approach us asking for the programme as well. We are working towards partnerships with local schools across Madagascar and in the Arusha community in Tanzania to implement our Youth Rangers Programme and Piggy’s humane education.

    And of course who can forget the schools in the US where Piggy brought comfort and care to hundreds of children, and his humane education principles continue.



    -Tod and the Team, Darwin Animal Doctors

    In loving memory of our hero, Piggy:

    Leave a Comment
  2. Two Amazing Months, Slow Loris

    It’s been 2 months since we’ve taken a trip to Indonesia to see how ISCP- Indonesian Species Conservation Program https://www.facebook.com/iscp.original in Sumatra are doing, and what an amazing 2 months they’ve been.

    When we last had a look in, at the beginning of September, there were 6 adorable slow loris being cared for at the rehabilitation centre.

    After 3 months of rehabilitation, all 6 were released back into the wild in a conservation forest area in the Dairi district of North Sumatra, in a release coordinated with North Sumatra KSDA Centre, back in October.

    Along with the 6 resident slow loris, 12 other protected animals were released. There was a seventh slow loris, songbirds, raptors and a leopard cat. All of which had been rescued from illegal trade in Northern Sumatra. Don’t worry, the leopard cat was released a safe distance from the slow loris!!!

    The seventh slow loris was voluntarily handed over by a resident of Medan city. Having kept the slow loris as a pet for 6 months, they read on social media that the slow loris is a protected animal, and it is illegal to keep them as pets. The word is slowly spreading!!!

    Following a medical check, this slow loris too was cleared for release.

    The areas for release are carefully considered. The availability of suitable habitat for the species and suitable food sources are key considerations but the team must also consider human activity within the area. Only when they consider an area protected from various human activities including poaching and habitat destruction, will it be chosen as a release site.

    So for a short while the ISCP Sumatran slow loris rehabilitation enclosure was empty, but not for long…

    Shortly after, the ISCP team was contacted by a resident of theTanjung Balai area, wanting to hand over a slow loris to a representative from BKSDA North Sumatra. Later that same day, the team in Aceh was also called to rescue 3 Sumatran slow loris from 2 locations. After a medical and behavioural examination, it was decided that all four would be released in conservation forest areas in Central Aceh.

    That’s 11 beautiful little Loris released back into the wilds of Sumatra in the last 2 months, and there’s still more to come. As recently as this week, 2 more slow loris have been handed over to BKSDA and ISCP to be rehabilitated, and later released back into the North Sumatran ecosystem!


    -Tod and the Team, Darwin Animal Doctors

    In loving memory of our hero, Piggy:

    Leave a Comment
  3. Saving Madagascar Together

    Way back in May, our very own Doctor Tara Clarke gave an amazing presentation for the Indian Association of Primatologists on Madagascar, the Vanishing 8th Continent.

    One of our most recent projects at DAD is Saving Madagascar Together: Community Youth Environmental Program. The program uses the Youth Rangers program we told you about a few weeks ago, and has been selected to teach environmental conservation and animal welfare topics for students and community members whose overall interaction with their ecosystem, conservation and natural forest is somewhat limited.

    In her presentation, Tara starts by looking at just how exceptional Madagascar is. You can find her whole presentation in the link below, but we’re going to give you some of the highlights here.

    The geological and natural history of Madagascar is incredible. It separated from India, and all other land 88 million years ago, so it’s had an exceptionally long time to evolve a truly unique array of plants and animals. The biodiversity is immense and so many of the species are endemic, found only in Madagascar: 90% of the plant life; 99% of the amphibians, all of which are frogs!; 96% of the reptiles, Madagascar has half the world’s species of chameleon; and 7/8 of the Malagasy carnivores, including King Julian’s nemesis, the Fossa!!!

    And that is to say nothing of the already extinct species of Madagascar. As recently as 1000years ago, Madagascar was home to an impressive array of giant mega-fauna including elephant birds, giant fossa and giant lemurs- the size of gorillas!!! Unfortunately a combination of human activities contributed to the extinction of these giant creatures. Tara will tell you more about them in her presentation!

    Of course the most famous of Madagascar’s animals are the adorable, charismatic lemurs! Having had 40 million years to evolve separately, after rafting across the 250km of the Mozambique Channel on land breaks, these primates are unique to Madagascar. Having no competitors, they were able to evolve to fill all the ecological niches: in the year 2000 alone 51 new species were described. They still have an immense diversity from tiny, 30 gram Mouse lemurs, to the 9.5kg Indri lemur. Sadly though, these beautiful creatures are still at risk of more extinction. 95% of the different species are classified as Endangered or Critically Endangered, making them the most endangered of the primates.

    Not only the lemurs are threatened, the whole extent of Madagascar’s amazing biodiversity is at risk. Madagascar is a top conservation priority: it is a biodiversity hotspot, but less than 30% of its natural vegetation remains. In the case of Madagascar, it’s much less, and what little primary forest remains is very fragmented. Human induced activity: slash and burn agriculture, illegal logging, mining, charcoal burning and the illegal pet trade have had a devastating effect.

    But of course there are conservation efforts in place. In the presentation, Tara talks about a number of novel approaches to conservation, including; social media, where they’ve actually done research using Twitter into pet lemurs; citizen science, a new area of research where anonymous surveys track sightings of lemurs kept as pets in Madagascar, which is of course illegal; and Wildlife Forensic Genetic Barcoding, which they are calling Poop Science!

    Wildlife Forensic Genetic Barcoding, uses DNA sequences collected from animals, or in this case from their poop, to identify the species, and has been used in poaching incidents, including elephants and sharks. In this case, the poop is being collected, non-invasively, from ring-tailed lemurs in wild populations, pets and in sanctuaries so it can be identified where they are being captured and these hot spots can be the focus of targeted conservation efforts.

    And of course there is our very own project that we touched on earlier: Saving Madagascar Together! It is designed to provide immersive course material to supplement the environmental education program run by Association Mitsinjo, in the Andasibe National Park. Participants will learn about and experience a day in the life of an Association Mitsinjo environmental volunteer and work alongside their instructors and local environmentalists to protect the forests.

    Association Mitsinjo (http://associationmitsinjo.wordpress.com) is a nonprofit dedicated to reforestation, ecotourism, wildlife rehabilitation and conservation, and environmental education of the Commune of Andasibe residents, stationed just outside the National Park. They work with 10 local primary schools to expand environmental and conservation knowledge in their local area.

    Our project hopes to supplement Association Mitsinjo’s current program, dedicated to connecting students with their local forest, educating students on their conduct in the context of ecosystems they aren’t usually able to experience in full. The students will take part in a variety of fun, interactive activities from litter pick ups, restoring habitats, learning about volunteer efforts, and monitoring amphibian and lemur populations through scavenger hunts, as well as learning how to be safe and responsible in the forest. Young people will learn about the amazing endangered species in their local environment and be able to develop their own research in simple community surveys to identify the needs of the local community and how communities can also support the work of local environmentalists.

    Tara has some fascinating lemur facts in her presentation, as well as expanding on some of the ideas we’ve shared with you in brief. There is also much more about the research being done in Madagascar and their findings, so please do check out her presentation in the link below!


    While we’re very excited to be developing this amazing community project in Madagascar, it has of course had its own delays this year. We hope we’ll soon be able to give you new reports from Madagascar.


    Tod and the Team, Darwin Animal Doctors

    In loving memory of our hero, Piggy:

    Leave a Comment