Hundreds of dogs and cats have made their home on San Cristobal Island, alongside the iconic blue-footed boobies and sea lions of the Galapagos Archipelago.
But until Dr Tom Parker arrived in early November, there was no year-round veterinary clinic for pet owners in the community, which is nearly 800 miles from the capital of Ecuador, Quito. Parker, director of medicine at Española Humane animal shelter, helped launch a new clinic this month in San Cristóbal through the international aid organization World Vets.
He led a team of six veterinarians, three veterinary technicians and several assistants to sterilize and sterilize approximately 250 animals in three days.
The effort comes months after the local government in San Cristóbal approved an ordinance banning the sale of pets on the island and requiring pets to be sterilized and kept on a leash outside the home, according to a June report from the SOS Galapágos news site. The rules were meant to protect the island’s rare wildlife.
Parker, who returned from the trip over the weekend, said on Monday that each sterilization operation takes the vet team 15 to 30 minutes, slightly longer than the usual process at Española Humane.
This was partly because he was not able to bring all the usual equipment.
“It’s a challenge. It gets you thinking on your feet,” he said. “You don’t have access to blood tests, x-rays, diagnostic items that you would normally rely on.”
He said 343 cats and dogs on the island received veterinary care when the clinic opened and 750 more are on a waiting list for the facility’s services, which is part of the new program. World Vet Conservation Medicine Department in the Galapagos Islands.
A full-time vet is expected to arrive at the clinic in January, and volunteers will likely staff him at short intervals by then.
Parker was joined by Española Humane’s communications director Mattie Allen, who has helped provide post-operative care for cats and dogs.
Allen noted similarities between San Cristóbal and Española. Much like the island, she said, pet owners in northern New Mexico face economic and geographic barriers to accessing veterinary care.
“I thought it was really memorable to see how our program in Española can be extrapolated to the islands of the equator, hundreds of kilometers off the coast of South America,” she said. declared.
Washington-based World Vets sends veterinarians to different parts of the world to help sterilize and sterilize animals, provide care for equine and marine animals, and provide animal assistance during natural disasters.
Parker, who worked as a veterinarian in Pojoaque for two decades before joining the staff of Española Humane, has volunteered with World Vets for years as a field veterinarian in different countries. He said the San Cristóbal Island clinic was the organization’s first “back to action” since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
“We have done a good number of surgeries,” he said. “[We] had good cooperation with local people.
The trip was a success, he said, adding: “It was very good to go back.”
The launch of the conservation medicine program, which will also serve wildlife, highlights an effort by Ecuadorian and local governments to control domestic animal populations.
Parker said feral cats hunt rare birds and lizards, including the archipelago’s elusive marine iguanas.
Some diseases, including distemper, can spread between dogs and Galapagos sea lions, Allen added.
“You can imagine that if there was an outbreak of distemper in dogs on the island, it would spread so quickly to the sea lion population,” she said. “So I think World Vets is not only helping pets and their inhabitants, but also populations of wild animals.”
Allen and Parker are back at work at Española Humane, but may return to the island to provide further assistance.
“[Parker’s] leadership on this project has been a key part of its success, ”wrote World Vets founder Dr Cathy King in an email. “Mattie played a crucial role in the postoperative care of patients and was an equally important part of the team.