Blue Lizard Adventures Conservation: Rabies Relief for Wilddog with Wildlife Vets International

Blue Lizard Adventures is not only about travel, tours, adventures breaks and volunteer projects. We are about wildlife and environmental conservation. One of our primary focuses and key aspects underpinning who we are and what we do, is it to raise awareness and funds for wildlife and environmental conservation.
All of our volunteer projects have conservation and research as their basis, whether it is practical habitat conservation, environmental or wildlife research, direct animal care, rehabilitation and husbandry. All of Blue Lizard Adventures tours, adventures, safaris and experiences have fundamental role in raising awareness/understanding and funding for wildlife and environmental conservation. All of our tour guides are extremely knowledgeable and care deeply about the environment which shows on all our adventures

In addition, Blue Lizard Adventures also supports a number of wildlife and environmental conservation groups and organisations. One such organisation is Wildlife Vets International.
Wildlife Vets International (WVI) is a charity organisation established to provide skills training and veterinary support to conservation workers and projects. They provide veterinary services for conservation projects by training for staff working hands-on with endangered species and by a rapid response to conservation emergencies. The WVIs work is based around field projects on saving rare and endangered wildlife.

An important part of the work carried out by Wildlife Vets International is the education and training of people who live and work in the animals’ natural range. The training provides extra skills and contributes to sustainable, long-term solutions for preserving endangered species. WVI hope to improve the relationship between wild animals and the people with whom they share their world.

An example of the WVI is below in the following article:


A united effort between MSD Animal Health, Wildlife Vets International (WVI) and Painted Dog Conservation (PDC) is helping to save Africa’s most endangered large carnivore – the painted dog -from extinction in the Hwange National Park, Zimbabwe.  This international rescue mission is addressing the need to eliminate the ever-present threat of rabies in both domestic and wild dogs.  MSD Animal Health has enabled this project to happen by providing the much needed vaccines to protect local domestic dogs against rabies as well as other illnesses such as distemper, parvovirus, adrenovirus and parainfluenza.
As we pass World Rabies Day (28 September) and we’re reminded of this dreadful disease with its devastating consequences, vaccinating domestic dogs against rabies will not only provide significant protection against rabies for the local human population, but also stop the disease spreading to the African wild dogs too.
These rather special and highly intelligent wild dogs, also go by the name of Painted Dogs – a nod to the animal’s irregular, mottled coat, which features patches of black, brown, white and yellow fur.  Each animal has its own unique coat pattern and all have big rounded ears.  They live in packs and the female has a litter of up to 20 pups, which are cared for by the entire pack.  These dogs are very sociable and packs have been known to share food and to assist weak or ill members.  Social interactions are common and the dogs communicate by touch, actions and vocalisations.  It is because these animals are very social that rabies is so deadly and the disease spreads quickly.  Once a pack is reduced to just six dogs, it often dies out.
 PDC – whose vision is to protect and increase the range and number of painted dogs in Zimbabwe – works closely with the local African communities and government and has provided all the on-the-ground facilities and organisation.  Working alongside PDC is WVI – a uniquely-modelled British charity ensuring the survival of endangered species by injecting veterinary expertise into the heart of conservation.  They first joined forces to set up mobile veterinary clinics in the Hwange National Park, a partnership which has gone from strength to strength.
On the most recent visit out there, WVI sent two British vets to continue the project.  Steve Leonard – who presents Vets in the Wild, Steve Leonard’s Extreme Animals and most recently Safari Vet School – is in fact patron of both PDC and WVI and has been passionate about painted dogs since the first time he saw them in Africa 14 years ago.  He was joined by Brigadier Dr Tom Ogilvie-Graham, former Head of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, who was instrumental in tackling an outbreak of distemper on his first visit two years ago.
A key part of the project was to assist the local Government Veterinary Services based in Hwange to set up 12 mobile clinics around the Hwange National Park.  Local dog owners were encouraged to come along to the clinics to bring their pets and have them vaccinated against rabies and distemper to stop the disease being transmitted on further to the painted dog population.
We caught up with Steve to find out what life as a vet was like out there.  He comments:  “What first surprised me about this trip was that when you travel through these villages and you see all the dogs milling around, you’re convinced that they are all strays, but virtually all are owned, named and very much loved”  
With all their advertising, vehicles, tables, board and lodging, as well as personnel from the Zimbabwean veterinary department organised, the team set up their mobile clinics in the bush ready for their first patients.  Very quickly, a small party of locals with their dogs started queuing up.  The veterinary team had plenty of work on as there are very few opportunities for local people to see a small animal vet in the area.  While the back-up team was busy with vaccines, worming and de-fleaing, the vets got stuck into seeing any dogs with specific illness or injuries, whilst the PDC staff prepared syringes, translated, recorded names and generally organised.  In just six days some 800 dogs were vaccinated in the Hwange National Park.
“These clinics are exactly what modern conservation should be all about – helping communities and wildlife together”, continues Steve, “Canine rabies is a terrible disease and one that can be prevented and even eliminated if we try hard enough.  Vaccination protects the people, their pet dogs and also the wildlife – especially the Painted Dogs – so everyone is a winner.  We couldn’t have achieved a fraction of what we have done without the very kind donation of vaccinations from MSD Animal Health”
MSD Animal Health, who already has supported projects in the Serengeti National Park, is committed to helping stop the threat of rabies. John Helps of MSD Animal Health said that “Rabies is a cause very close to our hearts at MSD and we are delighted and proud to be part of something so worthwhile.  It would be ideal to eliminate rabies from the world, and whilst this has not yet been an achievable goal everywhere, this African project certainly provides a valuable and effective model for similar initiatives in other rabies-endemic countries that wish to prevent the disease.”
Reflecting on his experience in Africa, Steve can thoroughly recommend veterinary work abroad.   “Even if you are just a small-animal vet, these skills make a big difference to what you can do for these villages and the community.  It is an amazing experience and a great opportunity to give something back.”
 Reference: Veterinary Practice, Oct 2012 pp49.
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