Exploring Maun: Vet Helps Dogs and Communities in Rural Botswana

Amelia Wimpenny, a vet from Greenside Veterinary Practice in Scotland, recently embarked on a trip with WVS to assist Maun Animal Welfare Society (MAWS) in northern Botswana with their vital work. A supported charity of WVS, MAWS’ vision is to promote a society which respects, protects and cares for all animals. They provide free veterinary care to the animals of low-income individuals in and around the town of Maun. Find out what she got up to in her blog below!

My trip to MAWS began with a few days exploring: a visit to Victoria Falls, just over the border in Zambia, and a safari in Chobe National Park - my first chance to see elephants, hippos and crocodiles!

I made a short visit to the capital, Gabarone, to swear an oath to the Botswana Veterinary Society before landing in Maun for my 2 week placement.  Arriving in Maun I was excited to get started! On my first day, I had a chance to assess all the inpatients at the clinic and get their care plans sorted. Kenny and Vasco, the permanent staff, were very welcoming and showed me the ropes. 

Then the neutering started!  Most dogs have ehrlichia (a bacterial infection transmitted by ticks) and therefore bleed like crazy!  Despite my reservations and anxieties about this, they recover very well from their surgeries.  All patients are then vaccinated to further promote a healthy population.

Injectable general anaesthetic is the norm and I was initially very wary about using them, especially as I didn’t have a Veterinary Nurse on hand, but Kenny was amazing and helped me monitor and prepare all the surgeries despite no formal training.  The anaesthetic protocol developed by the charity and local vets works really well.  I was very impressed with how resourceful and efficient the team were.  They really care about the animals and make sure the owners needs can be met as best as possible.  We aimed to finish surgery by early afternoon so the dogs have enough time to recover from their anaesthetic to go home with Nation, whose job it is to collect and drop off all the dogs. 

The first few days were really hot, and getting used to all of the bugs was a challenge!  Our number of inpatients seemed to rise exponentially as more patients were brought in by owners and Nation along with routine neuters – so lots of sick doggies!  At one point we had 20 dogs at the clinic!  Sadly, the number of parvo and distemper cases highlights the need for vaccination and education here. But even though there were some dogs we couldn’t save, we were able to prevent any further suffering for these individuals.

After a few days of the busy clinic I was invited round to Mervyn’s (founder of MAWS) house for a drink and swim with amazing views of the river (so not all hard graft!).  After the first week, I was getting my head around all the tropical diseases and how things roll here. It really felt like I was making a difference to these animals’ lives, and helping communities much less fortunate than back home.

Vicky arrived for the second week.  She had been appointed as MAWS’ first permanent Veterinary Nurse.  Vicky was great, getting stuck in straight away and we got on well.  John and Helen (MAWS Veterans) from the UK arrived the following day allowing us to increase the number of dogs sterilised and patients tended to.  Both were fountains of knowledge and enlightened us with their moth, bird and bat identification.  We had lots of fun catching moths and bird watching down by the river. We went to local yoga class on the Tuesday which was a very relaxing way to finish the day and also meet the locals.

Walking the 200m from the accommodation to the clinic each morning is something I will always remember fondly.  Seeing red and yellow hornbills, hoopoe, fly catchers and francolin was a wonderful way to begin each day.  And returning to the cottage’s resident dogs, Marley and Rafikie, at the end of the day guaranteed a warm welcome. 

I finished my time in Botswana with a trip on the Okavango Delta, with thanks to a link built up between the safari providers and MAWS, close encounters with elephants, leopards and hippos and memorable moments aplenty.

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