Earlier this year our team hosted a dog vaccination campaign and study outside Akagera National Park (ANP) in Rwanda. With the help of our young vets, Dr. David Murenzi and Dr. Charlene Rutagengwa, we were able to gather around 70 blood samples and administered over 100 vaccinations to domestic dogs. Each dog was vaccinated for canine distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvo, and rabies.
Worldwide, rabies has resulted in serious losses to domestic and wild animal populations. Since land surrounding the park is mostly for farming, owners tend to have multiple dogs as a source of protection, which has also led to an increased number of stray dogs in sectors surrounding ANP.
Our study focuses on evaluating disease dynamics at the domestic animal-wildlife interface to understand potentially shared diseases between domestic dogs and wildlife. The project’s first phase began with screening domestic dogs for diseases that not only impact dogs but also other domestic animals, wildlife, and even humans.
An additional goal of this study is to establish an effective relationship with communities surrounding ANP. Through education campaigns concerning wildlife-domestic animal conflicts, especially infectious diseases, we are engaging in open dialogues with local populations to enhance disease prevention and control. This approach bridges the gap in understanding health issues among local communities, ultimately improving human, livestock and wildlife health.
With the help of local livestock vets, village chiefs and health workers we were able to work with dogs in 2 selected areas surrounding ANP. We engaged the community through an outreach campaign where we distributed informative flyers emphasizing the importance and critical need for dog vaccinations. The flyers focused on rabies, shedding light on why vaccinations are essential, and the risks of disease transfer.
Our mentored vet, Dr. David Murenzi had the opportunity to lead the project with assistance from Dr. Charline Rutagengwa who mobilized veterinary students from the University of Rwanda to assist in the activities. The seven veterinary students chosen to join our team were able to gain hands-on experience in community engagement, dog handling, vaccination, and blood sampling and processing. They will soon join us in the lab to test the samples for targeted infectious diseases.
This project was not just about administering vaccinations and collecting blood samples; it's also about engaging with local communities and nurturing conservation stewards. Your support helps ensure that events like this continue. Our initiatives go beyond a scientific study, we aim at empowering communities, students, and protecting the wild animals in ANP. Donate today and support our efforts.