“Come through and meet John and Helen,” Tana, MAWS co-founder, says as we walk through the clinic door. Inside, on a far table, I see a veterinarian focused on what looks like a routine procedure.
The vet, John, looks up from his work and warmly nods before returning to the task at hand. On my left, I am greeted by Helen. “You’ve caught us at a good time,” she says, “we just got back.” John, a semi-retired vet, and Helen, a retired Dentist, originally from North Yorkshire, UK, have been volunteering with MAWS for the past month.
For the past week, they, as well as clinic hand Keneilwe, have been traveling throughout Northern Botswana providing veterinary care to rural villages. Outside of major towns, there is often little to no veterinary assistance. This mobile clinic provides care to animals who would otherwise never receive treatment.
The team traveled to the villages of Shakawe, Ukusi, Samochima, Sepupa, Botshabelo and throughout the panhandle area performing both vaccinations and sterilizations.
As it is a mobile clinic, they were often performing surgeries in unusual places. “The day of, you never know where you are going to set up your clinic and you don’t know who is going to show up,” John says. “You have to improvise,” Keneilwe says, “sometimes we had to just find a tree and set up.”
However, the community did show up. “One day, John performed twenty surgeries!” Helen says. Not only did many show up, but many were revisits from the year prior. “They remembered us from last year and came back for the next vaccination,” she says, “that’s when you think, ‘Yes! We’re getting somewhere!’”
MAWS is getting somewhere. Not only are local populations responding, but initiatives like the Mobile Outreach are actively protecting Botswana’s wildlife. With vaccinations and sterilizations, “you don’t get packs of semi-feral dogs roaming the countryside not only attacking goats, donkeys, and people, but also attacking the local wildlife,” John says, “also, the disease control side helps.”
Throughout South Africa, rabies has led to the eradication of huge populations of African Wild Dogs. “My worry is that that scenario could happen in the Okavango Delta… whether through disease or rabies. By controlling domestic population and building up a buffer zone of vaccinated dogs, we are taking a huge step forwards.”
After such a successful month, John and Helen are both excited to work with MAWS in the future. “I can’t thank the clinic staff enough” John says, “they’re devoted, dedicated, and put an awful lot into this clinic.” Helen furthers these sentiments: “their hearts are completely in it… they are doing it all out of love.
In total, 100 dogs and cats were vaccinated and 62 were sterilized!