Operating Outdoors: Volunteering in Botswana

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Operating Outdoors: Volunteering in Botswana

Thu 10th Jan 2019

Capucine Torck is a vet who recently embarked on a volunteering trip with our friends at Maun Animal Welfare Society. Find out what life is like operating in field conditions and performing surgeries on animals in desperate need of veterinary care - with Capucine's help, the MAWS team sterilised over 140 animals amongst other emergency treatments! 

Volunteering with Maun Animal Welfare Society was a great experience - stressful at first being in a completely foreign environment and working in a completely different way but with the fantastic team that was there to support me, I quickly got stuck in. Working on the project required a lot of hard work but you get back so much in human experiences and the knowledge you are making a real difference to the lives of animals in the area. It was my first time on the African continent so everything was new to me. 

The clinic was in a great location, situated in a small town in Northern Botswana. The weather was incredible, hot at times but tolerable due to the lack of humidity. It is in close proximity to the Okavango Delta which is absolutely stunning and filled with wildlife.  

An average day on the project would start with doing the rounds of all the patients staying at the clinic (post-operative cases and medical cases). Once all medications and treatments had been administered we would then start the day’s surgeries. We usually operated from 9.30am to 3pm. There would be the occasional emergency case throughout the day that may need to be tended to as well. Once all animals had woken up from their anaesthetic they would be dropped back home and surgical cases were picked up ready for the next day of surgeries. 

The majority of my work consisted of running the neutering clinic (surgery occurred throughout the day, 5 days a week) as well as seeing to emergencies and ill animals as needed. Outreach programs were also organized to provide sterilization and vaccinations to animals in other parts northern Botswana that would not otherwise have access to veterinary care. Advice was also provided to owners to improve companion animal welfare. 

The highlight of my trip would have to be the outreach that we did with the MAWS team in Ghanzi. It was a great opportunity and my first experience with surgery outdoors. It required a lot of adaptation but great to see how much we could achieve. It was also fantastic to see all the children turning up; hopefully they will be able to take back some knowledge regarding animal welfare and transmit it to others in the community.

Whilst volunteering with MAWS I performed my first amputation. A young puppy of about seven months was involved in a road traffic accident and had a broken front leg. With the owners we opted to amputate the leg.  The surgery went well and she stayed at the clinic for the next three weeks to make sure her wound had healed and stitches could be removed. She did extremely well and was mobile on three legs from the day after surgery. It was great to see her so comfortable and out of pain.

I was surprised at how easy the dogs were to handle considering how little human interaction a lot of them had. They were really fantastic to work with and extremely forgiving.

I learnt so much during this trip. The cases I saw there were quite different from small animal practice in the UK. You learn to become more imaginative and resourceful to solve problems with the limited resources that are available. I also gained so much with regards to my surgical skills – being able to perform so many surgeries on a daily basis was brilliant. It was a fantastic opportunity and definitely something I would like to experience again. I had the chance to work with a great team of people (Vicki, Kenny, Vasco and Thuli) which I would have never had a chance to work with otherwise. I would never have had the experience I had and met all the people I did visiting Botswana as a tourist. It’s been a great veterinary, but also human, experience. 

If you would like to head to Botswana for your next veterinary adventure, click here to learn more about the trip and how to apply! Vet and vet nurse spaces available!