The core TNR team pulled into Desa Grounds in the ‘California’ section of Kamukunji at 6.30am on 7 September – a dismal, drizzly day, the air heavy with the usual air pollution. “Desa” Grounds is actually short for “Desert” grounds, a name given by the mainly Somali inhabitants to the main community square of the area.
With the Mobile Clinic parked, set up got into full swing. Tents put up, locations of dog and cat rabies vaccination stations decided upon (a safe distance from one another) and the many volunteers assigned their tasks. Back of house, the castration tent, was a hive of activity as the cages in the recovery area were assembled. The autoclave ( a special instrument ‘boiler’) was set up and used to sterilise the drapes and surgical equipment and Dr. Desmond, and volunteer Hanne prepped the Mobile Clinic for the dozens of spay-neuters they will perform over the weekend.
Our first ‘customers’ were two cat-lovers who arrived an hour before opening. They were eager to be first in line as their cats kept giving birth and they had no means to pay for a spay surgery. It was soon apparent, that since this was a predominantly Somali and therefore Muslim area, cats were the favoured companion animal. Cats began arriving in sacks, cardboard boxes, or simply on the arm of their owner – all a bit hazardous, since when the stress gets too much, they can make a run for it. As quickly as possible the team transfers them into safer plastic carriers (which are a hazard in themselves, since the clasps often don’t work), so it’s then a rush to get pieces of bandage to tie the clasps, so we avoid escapees. (Good quality cat cages are very expensive, so we try to manage with a cheaper plastic version).
Dozens of dogs were bought in by owners, but not as many as we usually see. We soon discovered that indeed, there were many dogs in the vicinity, but due to overall suspicion of what we were doing, owners were loath to bring their dogs to the site….so, we had to go to them. Led by trusted members of the local community we put together teams to go out into the back streets of Eastleigh. Here we found groups of dogs in slum areas, garage compounds, home compounds and on the street. Many of them had to be netted. In one outing 30 dogs and 8 cats were vaccinated.
Education is a big feature of any campaign and there was no shortage of kids eager to join in and have some fun. About 10 is the optimum number to attend the very interactive TNR programme, which is designed to teach them about the urgent need to visit a clinic if they are bitten by a dog or cat to ensure that they get rabies vaccinations as soon as possible. They are also educated on the basics of caring for a pet, giving food and water, grooming and how to behave around dogs so as to avoid being bitten.
As always, we want to say a very big thank you to all our fantastic volunteers, and a special thank you to our vet students and newly graduated vets that turn up tirelessly to assist us in our goal of eradicating rabies and humanely controlling the dog and cat population. Thank you! You do a great job!
Altogether we: Vaccinated 406 dogs and cats – Sterilised 65 dogs and cats and Educated over 200 kids.
Our next campaign will be held at Ndurarua Primary School in Nairobi on 5 and 6 October.