Koh Tao, Thailand
Dr. Carmen arrived on site in Koh Tao, Thailand a week prior to the first set of volunteers who would join the program. During this first week, Dr. Carmen was setting up the temporary clinic, meeting with local partners and ensuring that everything was in place and ready to go; from trap cages to surgery tables.
“We would set up in a property of ‘Save Koh Tao’; across the street from the clinic. It is an open area with a rooftop, lights and fans. I had to buy some containers to store our spay kits, make an anaesthesia protocol for the volunteers, and set up everything to be ready for Monday.” reported Dr. Carmen. So much preparation had gone on behind the scenes over the past months to be ready for the team to begin, but there is always more work to be done in a field clinic!
Dr. Carmen was especially interested and excited to meet our local partners, to ensure that we would be able to work in a manner that would be most supportive and beneficial for the community. Our local veterinary partner, Jae, introduced Dr. Carmen to her clinic assistant, Nai who would be helping the team around the clinic and with trapping, including prepping the animals for surgery. Dr. Carmen was also introduced to Nit Noi who would help with cleaning and preparation of the materials needed for surgeries.
As the volunteers began to arrive, the campaign hit its official start date and the team set to work. “The first week was busy with an average of eight animals a day and a lot of female spays”, reported Dr. Carmen. As a teaching facility, Dr. Carmen and Dr. Mila, another experienced vet on the team, were taking much care and attention to guide students and newer vets through surgeries; from preparation to after care. The students were all improving throughout the first weeks, each getting more experience and confidence in themselves from the support of Dr.s Carmen and Mila.
Local partners worked hard alongside the Darwin Animal Doctors’ team, and added a bright spark to each and every day with their positive attitudes and willingness to help.
“Nit Noi is the cleaning lady, she doesn’t speak Thai or English as she is Burmese. She sings the whole day, cleans and loves the animals… Nai is an all-round assistant, preparing the animals for surgery, giving anaesthesia etc. Nai goes around town with a blowpipe to sedate aggressive dogs and brings them to me for surgery. He also brings nice dogs, which were easier to catch for him, and brings them back again at the end of the day to where they came from.”
As the Darwin Animal Doctors and Koh Tao residents worked together, the first weeks were shaping up to be a great success. During the second week, the number of animals being brought into the clinic slowed which meant that Nai became even busier catching animals around town. Other local community members, Nicky and Heidi, stepped in to help and begun setting traps. They reached out to the community to monitor the traps to let the Darwin Animal Doctors team know when an animal had been caught, and to help set more traps to catch strays.
The team will continue working together with the community for the next two months, aiming to significantly reduce the stray cat and dog populations on the island. In amongst all their hard work, the team also manage to have a good time and experience the Thai culture; “For lunch we don’t have a set time, we go when we are finished with surgeries for that moment and we go and find some restaurant to have a quick lunch. In the afternoon, we sometimes relax at the beach and at night we enjoy a Thai curry.”