2023 – Zanzibar

Spay Sisters Zanzibar trip 2023

So this year we set off from our various countries on the weekend of January 21/22 and returned on the 5/6 February. 

Now where to start on this write up, which considering the circumstances has taken a while for me to start, needing to distance myself from the event.  The best thing about these trips for me remains meeting up with the girls again about 12 months after the previous trip and finding out about the stories!  Veryan arrived from Thailand, where she was half way through her world circuit.  Dominique, a founding trustee, packed her bag again and joined the gang, 7 years later.  Some of the best news was that Jill was back.  In the preparation for this trip it hadn’t felt very organised on the country side (in recent years we have got used to dealing with governments and Pete Tingle isn’t that!) so I hadn’t encouraged any baby vets to come along which in retrospect was a good idea.

I was toying with the idea of calling the trip Pete Tingle 2023, however that seemed somewhat unprofessional.  Before moving to Zanzibar in 2020, he had been in fishing tackle but now had had a calling to animal rescue and with foolish bravery had invited Spay Sisters.  With time we are hoping that he will possibly be able to concede that animals can get cannabis poisoning. 

The trip involved working from 4 sites, Pongwe, Nungwi, Mkokotoni and Paje unfortunately, we hadn’t had enough publicity prior to our arrival so our numbers were poor.  Within a few hours of our arrival, it was obvious it was going to be more difficult than our more recent trips, with respect to motivation.  Other factors were the presence of Kymberlee, a Californian woman who had come to help the project and Worldwide Vets, which was Gemma and Sarah. Without all of their help it would have been worse. 

Personally, for me it was a learning curve, I was not firing on all cylinders, as I had herniated L2,L3 a month before and now we found ourselves in a fairly chaotic mess.  Yes we could sterilise all Pete’s friends animals but after that? We had enough equipment for 1000 animals.  This information had all been shared in the months preceding the trip and we had been assured it was organised.  But where were the animals?  We were 9 vets, 3 vet nurses a bunch of women with no work…. imagine that 😉 

 It is so difficult to wake up, breakfast, prepare, go to the place you are working, see a couple of animals, set out tables, drugs etc.. 2 vets operate, whilst the other 7 watch and then nothing!! And I mean nothing for a few hours.  We are not naturally a lazy bunch, you can’t just ditch tools and walk or can you? 

No, you find alternatives… Suzy now feels capable and competent at 8-12 week old kitten anesthesia.  Dominique is prepared to take her life in her hands by setting out on the back of Pete’s bike without a helmet.  Worldwide Vets paid local children to catch cats to bring to the operating site.  This instigated another ethical dilemma.  Spay sisters methods involve befriending and educating the local population, explaining to them that having their animal operated on will benefit their animal, not encouraging the concept of ‘white man arrives, throws money at it and gets his way’.  We let the payment happen on one day, we took no part in it and basically closed a blind eye, agreeing afterwards that it wasn’t going to be repeated.

Jill and Amy pooled knowledge and repaired Luna the amazingly burnt cat, whose story is still continuing 3 months later with the wound, originally one side of the cat, to now the size of a pingpong ball.  Lizzy, with the most patience and determination of the lot of us, spent hours walking around in the midday sun with her cat basket trying to catch wandering strays, with Veryan following!  Then she also set her hand to teaching the vets and animal technicians from Zanzibar Animal Care our sterilisation techniques.

Luna’s wound (before & after)

With Jill’s advice, I managed to castrate a cryptorchid dog through a single hole.  The French contingent improved their English and Marie felt pleased when Suzy said she could work with her and that she had been good at her job.  Emma makes trips wonderful for me, because when the going gets tough we can just resort to French and slate everyone!!

My other support was Ali, who also found it difficult as ‘having too little work was very very demoralising’ and ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ Livia, spent her free time writing up her projects for her forthcoming exams and nursing kittens, which was productive up until the last day. 

Amita, is now such a necessary part of each trip, sourcing suitcases from neighbours attics and providing much needed evening refreshments. 

Another great thing about the trip was the food, which was kindly donated by various restaurants including Kendwa Rocks, Celine at Kendwa Villa, Zuri Zuri Hotel, Joanna, Machnoo.

Next year we are off to Kuwait, which considering it is where Suzy lives and where Jill used to have her clinic, we are assured no work shortage! So all the left over drugs from this year have an assured purpose before they go out of date. 

We used our standard triple, liking Ketamine better than Zoletil, Medetomidine, Butorphanol and Ketamine.  We also gave Shotapen and Meloxidor as antibiotics and nsaid’s.  Ivomec was administered to any mangey dogs and repeat injections were given to any owned mangey dogs.  All surgery incisions were as small as possible and all sutures were hidden. 

Table showing our daily operations

So this year we sterilised 361 animals which was a valiant effort all round!! 

A few more pictures to describe the adventure!