In the land of invisible dogs
A team of FOUR PAWS vets was in for an intense experience when traveling to Sudan’s Darfur region on the first ever Stray Animal Care mission of its kind. Upon invitation of the UN and the Sudanese government in Khartoum, the group toured the military-protected west of the country, treating and neutering stray dogs around various UNAMID camps. The joint army presence of the United Nations and the African Union provided safety and an ideal base network to care for as many animals as possible. While the heat and time-consuming logistics turned the project into a very strenuous effort for everyone involved, the warm welcome and cooperativeness of both soldiers and locals made it all worthwhile. More than 100 dogs and cats were treated throughout the month of February.
Due to the severe weather conditions, the animals within a targeted area were caught in the mornings, then brought to the clinic facilities and scheduled for re-release the next day. One of the most difficult and amazing things the FOUR PAWS vets experienced was how well many of the dogs adapted to their environment. Some of them appeared to blend in seamlessly with the sand canvas and found the most unusual places to hide in. But with the help of the locals, who are extremely attached to the animals they care for in spite of the hardships of their own lives, work became increasingly efficient. A female dog in El Fashir was nicknamed “The Sand Mother” due to her incredible skills in mimicry. She and her puppies received much necessary medical aid, as did severely injured “Cappuccino”, whose life was saved after a near-fatal road accident. The now three-legged dog recovered well and became very popular among the locals who were amazed at his brave fight to survive.
Training for 40 local vets
40 Sudanese veterinarians accompanied the team throughout and were constantly present in the operation room. None of them had much experience with small domesticated animals, but they were all extremely eager to learn. The training programme was a vital part of the SAC mission as stray overpopulation is a problem in the region and ultimately leads to much suffering among the animals as well. Both the Sudanese government and the UN stand firmly behind implementing sustainable and animal-friendly methods of population control, which in itself casts an interesting light on how difficult it is to convince European officials to do the same. During the month spent in Darfur, the FOUR PAWS team encountered locals who see their animals as family members and were grateful and always willing to help. They encountered UNAMID soldiers from many different nations who got involved much more than they were expected to and dedicated a lot of their spare time to participate in the project; and they encountered animals that were often dehydrated, suffering from chronic ailments and in need of help. Those that were treated in this unprecedented project will now lead a better life, blending into the unique North African landscape. Most of all, this mission brought hope, though. Hope that a humane handling of stray animals is possible, even under difficult circumstances.