Scaling new heights: One Health surgical training camp in the Ecuadorian Andes

Scaling new heights: One Health surgical training camp in the Ecuadorian Andes

Our South America team has expanded into the rural communities of the Ecuadorian Andes, working to create healthier animal populations, improve animal welfare, and reduce conflict between domesticated species and wildlife. In October, we ran a one week surgical and clinical training camp with Ecuadorian veterinary students, working in collaboration with Fundación Cóndor Andino Ecuador (FCA) and Universidad San Francisco de Quito (USFQ). Fifteen students received training in international standards of surgery, anaesthesia, and animal health, with animal welfare as the main priority.


The training programme was held in the parish of Angochagua, Ecuador, which is at an altitude of around 2800-3000m, with a population of 3,988 people. There has been no census on the population of domesticated dogs and cats, however, an estimation by the local authorities places the number at around 4,000; the total number is likely to be much higher as this only includes owned animals, and not strays. The location was chosen for the training camp to tackle the growing conflict between domesticated species and wildlife, engage the community to prevent the harming of wildlife, and address the lack of veterinary intervention in this area. With little knowledge of the population of dogs and cats within this vicinity, this project provided an opportunity to understand the situation in greater detail, whilst performing life-changing sterilisation procedures.

Image credit: FCA

Protecting the wildlife of Angochagua

The parish of Angochagua remains an important area for the conservation of wildlife species such as the Spectacled Bear. Being an umbrella species, the protection of its habitat and the reduction of threats would not only facilitate the survival of this species, which is categorised as vulnerable, it would also promote the conservation of all the flora and fauna species that inhabit its territory. Currently, it is estimated that there are around two thousand individuals of Spectacled Bear in Ecuador. However, this number could drastically decrease if the perception regarding the care of companion animals is not changed. Through the provision of much-needed veterinary services and by engaging with communities, conflict can be reduced, illegal hunting can be stopped, and natural habitats can be protected – benefitting both the animals and people who live there.

Making a lasting change through expert veterinary training

A core objective of the programme was to provide veterinary student training in surgery and anaesthesia in accordance with the WVS international standards of professional medicine. This campaign had a large input with over 30 team members/volunteers having crucial roles throughout the areas of admittance, preparation, surgery, anaesthesia, recovery, and discharge. All areas had trained professional staff overseeing them to ensure a high standard of care. The students rotated between the areas, throughout the five days of the campaign, to ensure proper exposure to all aspects of surgical care.

"This experience was particularly enriching for me. I challenged myself by rotating through various areas such as surgery, anesthesia, preparation, postoperative care, and reception, significantly expanding my skills and knowledge. The contribution of experienced professionals was invaluable, providing us students with guidance, practical tips, and sharing their experiences." - Milena, 5th year vet student.

"The campaign carried out in Angochagua for me as a student was an enriching experience that allowed me to obtain, understand, and apply the knowledge obtained throughout the degree in a practical way." - Viviana, 5th year vet student.

Creating a safer community for all, through humane dog population management

During the five days of training, 222 dogs and cats received surgical serialisation. Through the delivery of humane animal birth control, we’re improving the overall welfare of animals through the reduction in the incidence of diseases, injuries, and conflicts associated with uncontrolled breeding and overpopulation. By collaborating with veterinary professionals and students in the performance of these procedures, we can ensure the surgeries are efficient and humane, and that these vital veterinary services can be continued. The campaign also provided an opportunity to start the collection and analysis of data on the local dog population.

The power of community engagement in animal welfare

The campaign provided an excellent opportunity to engage with local communities to promote responsible pet ownership and the importance of humane dog and cat sterilisation. Talks were delivered to the rural communities of Angochagua with speakers from FCA and our South America team. The FCA focused on the growing threats and risks to the wildlife of the region. This included the conflict posed by domesticated dogs, how to identify which species has killed their livestock, and why other means of control is more effective and practical. Dra Erika Medrano, our Lead Veterinarian at our Galápagos Animal Doctors clinic, spoke on behalf of WVS, and focused on the role of sterilisation for the health of animals and the community.

Thank you to all of the team, and our fantastic project partners, for coming to together to deliver this campaign. We look forward to growing our work within these communities to improve animal welfare and reduce domesticated species impact, encroachment, and pressure on the surrounding wildlife and their habitats.

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