4 February 2005: The FOUR PAWS team members, who will work together in Sri Lanka over the next several weeks, meet each other in the Prague airport after extensively preparing for the Sri Lanka project.
Our team consists of Romanian, Bulgarian and Austrian volunteers. We are all excited, since most of us have never been in Asia. Our project leader, Dr. Amir Khalil, tells us about his investigation week in Sri Lanka. The weather is hot there, and the suffering of both humans and animals is enormous.
It is boarding time. All of our medical equipment and supplies, which we need urgently, are already on the plane. After we take our seats everything goes very quickly and we are soon in the air. We will reach Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka, tomorrow. Some of us sleep, while others prepare themselves for the project ahead.
5 February 2005: We have finally reached Sri Lanka! The sun has just risen and the morning is bright and hot. Customs checks our equipment very carefully, and after an hour we are allowed to leave the airport. We take cars to the hotel in Colombo, where we will spend our first night. In the afternoon we have our first team meeting, where Dr. Amir Khalil shows us photos of his investigation work over the last few weeks. In order to work faster and more efficiently, we will be divided into two teams. In the evening a local veterinarian joins our team. We go to bed early so that we'll be well prepared and well rested for the next day.
6 February 2005: In the morning we leave Colombo and take small buses to Habaraduwa. During the drive we see the horrendous destruction of the coast, completely destroyed houses, and even areas of coastline that have been completely demolished and washed away. After several hours we reach the city of Habaraduwa, which is near the city of Galle. Dr. Khalil has rented a house for us; the owner of the house has prepared it for us as much as possible, given that there are only a few chairs and beds in the house. The people of the city are happy about our arrival. In the evening we have another team meeting, and tomorrow we can officially start our project.
7 February 2005: We get up very early again to prepare for the day ahead.
Before lunch we have a meeting with the mayor of Habaraduwa, Mr. Lional Ippalawatta (see picture).
The Austrian military is responsible for supplying water in the area, and offered us water for our tank (see picture).
Project leader Amir Khalil arranges for us to use two small cars, called Tuc Tuc. Members of our team will drive through the streets in these cars and announce over loudspeaker to the inhabitants that medical help is now available for their animals.
The rest of the team worked on providing medical care to animals since early afternoon.
8 February 2005: The abandoned animals are in very bad condition; most of them have parasites and severe skin diseases. Our team not only vaccinates and sterilizes the dogs, they also provide treatment for their infections and skin diseases.
9 February 2005: The line of people waiting to get into the veterinary station is incredibly long. People have come from all over with their animals, and our team's animal catchers continue to find ownerless animals in need of treatment. Animals - mostly dogs - are vaccinated, sterilized, registered in our database, and marked with red dog collars. Animals are treated for parasites and skin diseases, and many of them receive medical treatment for the injuries they incurred during the flood. Our team is on duty 24 hours a day to help in case of emergencies.
10 February 2005: For several days now, small buses have been used to spread the word of our project. Information about what we are doing and where we are treating animals is announced in the national language.
A native whose dog was treated by our veterinarians two days ago visited us to thank us again. The dog's health has improved significantly, and his owner is happy about the dog's improved condition.
11 February 2005: We made an information packet that we're showing to the local people. The packet includes all our project goals, and explains exactly what we are doing and why. It includes the importance of vaccination, as well as the method we use to sterilize animals. In front of our treatment centre is flag that helps people find us. Many people visited us today to have their animals treated, and we're really glad that our work is being appreciated so much. .
12 February 2005: Two more volunteers from Germany arrived in Sri Lanka today to help out. We need all the support we can get because each day more animals come in for treatment. For a week now we have been working with local veterinarians, which has provided extra help as well.
13 February 2005: All the locals we've met have been very kind. They're grateful that we're here and are thankful for our help. The Sri Lankans have been helping out with the relief effort by catching ownerless animals; we really appreciate their help. Their energy and friendliness is truly remarkable, especially considering the tragic disaster they have recently been through.
14 February 2005: As well as working in the clinic, we drive to the villages around Habaraduwa to treat animals. Our visits to the villages are announced a day before, and information packets are handed out to the villagers. We are vaccinating and sterilizing cats as well as dogs.
15 February 2005: Most of the dogs brought to us have lost their owners, and are caught by locals to be treated by our team. Our relief project has already attracted a lot of attention - even Sri Lanka's government is interested. Over the next two weeks we will be accompanied by employees of the Sri Lanka Public Health Veterinary Service. They want to get to know our team, and learn more about what we're doing and how we're doing it.
16 February 2005: Today local people brought an injured calf to the clinic. The calf was hurt in the Tsunami and was in bad condition. Locals in Sri Lanka become very attached to their animals because they contribute so much to the lives of their owners. The calf is much better now, and his owner grateful for the help we were able to provide.
17 February 2005: We recently found out that more employees from Sri Lanka's Public Health Veterinary Service, as well as more local vets, will join us over the next few weeks. They are going to observe our work and get to know our team in hopes of learning more about our procedures. They are especially interested in how we're catching stray dogs, and our spaying and neutering methods. Also, more and more tourists have been visiting our clinic to congratulate us on our efforts.
18 February 2005: It almost seems like this dog is proudly presenting his new Four Paws collar to the camera. We're happy that we can help both the people and animals in Sri Lanka so much.
19 February 2005: Four local people brought a seriously injured puppy to our animal clinic. The puppy had a large puncture wound on his back from another dog biting him, as well as many parasites. Our project leader, Dr. Khalil, immediately started treating the puppy. The puppy's chance of surviving the operation was slim, but our team went ahead with it anyway. We named the dog Bobulina, and took him home with us where we can keep a close eye on him around the clock. He began eating and drinking after he came out of anaesthesia, which was a good sign, but we will continue to look after him day and night in hopes that he'll survive.
20 February 2005: Our team members are keeping busy providing information and increasing local awareness of the project. We are distributing flyers locally, and using cars to spread word of our project to farther locations.
21 February 2005: We're treating wild animals as well as ownerless animals, pets and other domestic animals that belong to the local people. Because of the Tsunami, many animals have injuries that require professional treatment. Open wounds can easily become dangerously infected.
22 February 2005: Today we organized another way to bring injured and ownerless animals to our veterinary clinic. A local man who owns a small car, which in Sri Lankan is called a 'tuck tuck,' immediately agreed to support the Four Paws team by picking up hurt and stray animals, as well as help with translating and distributing information. This incredibly kind and helpful man attached our FOUR PAWS logo to the door of his car, and set off with one of our volunteers.
23 February 2005: Today we treated a couple of emergency cases in our clinic. One of them, an injured dog, made us especially worried. One of his paws was severely infected, and he was in overall bad health. Our veterinarians immediately started to operate. The infection went all the way down to the bone; in such cases, the affected area has to be amputated. The FOUR PAWS veterinary team did everything they could to save the paw, but one toe ended up having to be amputated. Luckily, the rest of the dog's paw was saved, and the toe amputation will not hinder the dog in the future.
Bobolina, the puppy we treated with the serious bite wound on his back, is getting better every day. We've been looking after him around the clock, and are happy to see that the wound on his back is healing nicely, and his parasites are now gone.
24 February 2005: Today we had a distinguished guest. The wife of Sri Lanka's health minister, Nima Siripala de Silva, visited the FOUR PAWS veterinary clinic to observe us working (see picture). She came with a veterinarian, who was very interested in our sterilization method. Our gentle method of catching ownerless and stray animals also greatly impressed our visitors.
25 February 2005: After sterilizing and vaccinating many dogs in our clinic today, we were visited by a cow. The cow's owner, a local Sri Lankan, used a very large cart to transport the cow, which had a severe injury on its neck. Our team of veterinarians treated the wound, and asked the owner to come back in a few days so that the wound could be checked again. The cow's injury was a result of the Tsunami - many animals were injured by debris from the storm.
Dr. Khalil also had other important meetings today. He visited the offices of local newspapers in Colombo to further increase the amount of information about the project we are distributing. From now on, the editor of the weekly newspaper "The Island" (see picture) will allocate an entire page for the FOUR PAWS project, and the daily newspaper "Upali Newspaper Limited" will publish a story about our project in Sri Lanka.
26 February 2005: Today our project leader Dr. Amir Khalil had a meeting with Sri Lanka's health minister, Nimal Siripala de Silva (see picture). We were given the opportunity to introduce our project to the minister, and we showed him photos of our work. Nimal Siripala de Silva was very enthusiastic about our work, and is planning on supporting us in Sri Lanka. More local dog catchers will aid in our efforts over the next few weeks, and local veterinarians have been working with us for a week already.
The meeting with the health minister was a big success, since it ensures that our project in Sri Lanka will continue to develop.
27 February 2005: We are happy that four more volunteers arrived yesterday in Sri Lanka to help support our project.
Today we met Roy, a sheep dog who is much larger than most dogs in Sri Lanka. Roy lost his owner in the Tsunami, and was found in a destroyed hotel. Roy's new owner brought him to our veterinary clinic because he has a hip injury that needs immediate treatment. Our team of veterinarians is going to take x-rays of his hip before diagnosing or treating him.
28 February 2005: Our volunteers are working around the clock to catch stray animals to bring to the clinic. Over the next few days, more local people will join us to help catch stray and ownerless animals, and we'll be able to treat even more animals each day.
1 March 2005: Today we treated a dog in very bad condition. He was suffering from a serious skin condition, and one of his legs had a large, very infected wound. He had lost nearly all of his fur, and overall was very weak. Our veterinaries immediately began operating on the infected leg, but unfortunately were unable to save the dog's paw - it had to be amputated. The dog is now staying in the FOUR PAWS veterinary clinic so that he can be monitored closely.
2 March 2005: There are an incredible number of stray and ownerless animals in this region of Sri Lanka, and the local people have been helping us immensely with searching for and catching them. Dogs, however, still make up most of the animals that come to our clinic for treatment.
Today the owner of the calf that we treated on February 16th came by to tell us how well the calf is doing. We're really happy that we had the opportunity to help the owner and his calf so much.
Today a local man brought a monkey to the clinic to be vaccinated. Here you can see the monkey with one of our volunteers.
The local TV station came to our clinic to video our work and to conduct some interviews (see picture).
3 March 2005: Today the wife of the health minister, Nimal Siripala de Silva, visited our clinic again. She came with a friend, another local veterinarian, who will join us for the next few weeks to learn from us. In the meantime, three local veterinarians (see picture) have been working with us every day to help out our team, which has 22 members.
4 March 2005: Today several members of our team went by car to a small town to treat animals. We had already informed the inhabitants the day before of our vaccination and sterilization program, as well as our arrival time. A lot of people were anticipating our arrival, and were already in line with their animals waiting for treatment from the FOUR PAWS veterinarians.
Some injured animals cannot be transported. For this reason, our team also visits people with injured animals at home. Today we got a call from a local woman who had an injured dog in her house. The dog had been hit by a car. We calmed the frightened dog down and brought him to our veterinary clinic for treatment. Now the dog is in good health, and is back at home with his new owner.
5 March 2005: Information distribution is still a very important part of our work in Sri Lanka. Every day our team members work hard to inform the local people of the help they're providing to animals.
Today another local man brought a calf to be treated by our team. The animal wasn't able to move because it had two serious injuries. Our veterinarians treated gave the calf antibiotics and cleaned and treated its wounds. The calf has to be treated again over the next few days to make sure its condition improves.
6 March 2005: Another local volunteer has helped us catch dogs since last Friday. After the first day of instruction by our team, this local man has helped us catch many dogs. With his help, we'll be able to find and treat even more animals.
7 March: People come from everywhere to bring their animals to our veterinary clinic. With the help of the local press and media, information about our project is reaching even more local people.
8 March 2005: Our team treats puppies as well as adult dogs in the FOUR PAWS veterinary clinic. Both young and adult animals are vaccinated and treated for parasites, and if puppies have suffered any injuries, they are of course treated by our veterinarians.
Puppies who have lost their owners or who need special treatment in order to survive are treated around the clock by our team.
9 March 2005: Three local volunteers have helped us catch dogs since yesterday. They will be trained by our team, and will increase our efficiency. We are also happy that three additional veterinarians from Germany have joined us today, and will be working with us over the next several weeks.
10 March 2005: Our team members have to wear gloves when they catch and treat cats that have lost their owners - cats are often very anxious and frightened, and they sometimes bite and scratch. The members of our team really try to minimize the cats' fear and anxiety, and release them as soon as possible after being vaccinated and sterilized.
11 March 2005: We really appreciate the support of the local veterinarians and volunteers who are working with us. Not only is their help with the catching and treating of animals important for our long-term goals, but their ability to translate and spread information about us in the national language is also of great importance.
12 March 2005: Local people often want to bring as many animals as possible to our clinic to be treated by the FOUR PAWS veterinarians.
13 March 2005: These children are very proud - their dog has been neutered, vaccinated and treated for parasites by our veterinarians. The red FOUR PAWS collar shows that the dog has already been treated.
14 March 2005: About 80% of the animals treated in our clinic are captured by FOUR PAWS dog catchers. The remaining 20% of the animals are brought by local people to be treated by our team.
15 March 2005: Not all of our patients are from nearby; many owners travel long distances to our clinic to have their animals treated. Our dog catchers are also sent to places farther away, so that we have the opportunity to treat ownerless animals from areas that are relatively far away from the clinic.
16 March 2005: Today we received an emergency call from a farmer. His cow gave birth a few days ago, and had not yet recovered. The birth had been very complicated, and the mother cow hadn't been able to eat, drink, or stand up since. She was therefore unable to lactate, and her calf was starving. The farmer and his family feared that both the cow and the calf would die within the next few days.
Two FOUR PAWS veterinarians, project leader Dr. Amir Khalil and one of our veterinary assistants, went to help the farmer's cow and calf.
The animals were immediately given medical treatment, including an IV to replace lost nutrients and fluids. We are happy to report that both animals are slowly recovering, although their survival still can't be totally guaranteed. Our team is committed to caring for the cow and her calf until they are both fully recovered.
17 March 2005: The number of animals with red FOUR PAWS collars is growing every day. This bright red collar indicates to everyone that the animal has already been treated by our veterinarians. After being neutered or spayed, the animal receives a numbered-tattoo inside its ear, which is then registered with FOUR PAWS; the combination of the collar and tattoo make it possible to identify the animal whenever necessary.
18 March 2005: Today our project leader, Dr. Amir Khalil, had an important meeting with the mayor of Colombo, Gunawardena Prasanna (see picture). We have been informed that in Colombo, stray animals are being routinely killed. The reason so many animals are being killed is to prevent an outbreak of rabies. Dr. Khalil wanted to meet with the mayor as soon as possible so that he could begin spreading information about the project, and therefore could possibly be able to save the lives of thousands of animals. Dr. Khalil explained both the project he's running and the success that FOUR PAWS has had so far using this spay/neuter and vaccination method. He clarified to the mayor that the best way to help both humans and animals was to stop the killing of animals in Colombo, and instead to begin a spay/neuter and vaccination program. This is the best and most humane way to both control the stray animal population and to prevent the outbreak of diseases. The mayor of Colombo met with local veterinarians, and decided to begin a vaccination and sterilization project in Colombo over the next few weeks.
Some of our team members will present the FOUR PAWS project in the mayor's residence next week. We will then go to Columbo for a day to spay and neuter ownerless animals, and to inform interested people about our methods of animal protection and population control.
19 March 2005: Today our team found an injured monkey. The monkey was hurt by a power line and fell down into the street. His head was badly injured, and he was fed and cared for by our team after he received medical attention. After he had sufficiently recovered, he was released him in place he was found several hours before.
20 March 2005: Tourists have been visiting our veterinary clinic every day. They are interested in our work and our methods, and the tourists have been thanking us for our help and congratulating us on our success. Some of the tourists in Sri Lanka even found and adopted animals during their stay. These animals will also receive treatment from our veterinarians.
21 March 2005: Even though Bobulina grew healthier every day, her owner never came back to claim her. Because she was never claimed, one of our colleagues decided to offer her a good life back in Vienna. On March 12th, they began their homeward journey. Bobulina was allowed to travel as hand luggage in a little plastic basket. All the necessary health certificates were previously documented, and thus there were no problems with her entering the country. After the 24-hour trip, both of them were exhausted, but happy to have finally arrived at their destination. Bobulina has gotten used to her new home, and has become a very cute, playful and happy puppy.
22 March 2005: Today was a very important day for us - the mayor of Colombo asked us to show him how our work was going and the progress we'd made so far. He was very interested in our work and promised to support us in the future.
23 March 2005: The people who had been working in Colombo the day before left Colombo early enough to reach Habaraduwa by the afternoon. They helped vaccinate animals in the villages, and it was another very successful day since we were able to vaccinate a lot of animals in three more nearby villages.
24 March 2005: The manager of a nearby factory asked us for help today because there were many stray dogs roaming around near his factory. We sent our dog catchers to the area where the factory was so that the dogs could be caught, neutered or spayed, and vaccinated.
Tomorrow we are going to continue cleaning up and preparing for our flight back home. We also had a chance to discuss the course of action for the next few weeks with the local vets who have been working with us, and who will continue the project after our departure.
25 March 2005: Today is our last working day at the clinic in Habaraduwa.
The significantly smaller number of animals that were brought in today to be vaccinated and castrated or spayed can only be a positive sign; this decline in numbers is evidence that we've successfully reached our goals.
We're handing the clinic over for the next two weeks to the local vets, who we have been training for the past several weeks. They will attend to animals that are recovering from surgery, and will also administer rabies vaccines to new animals coming to the clinic.
26 March 2005: The mayor of Habaraduwa invited us to a special meeting to express his gratitude to FOUR PAWS for their help, and also let us know that because of our contributions, an outbreak of rabies was prevented.
Today our team finished cleaning up, and began to prepare themselves for their departure. Most of the team have been in Sri Lanka for almost seven weeks. They are all sad to be leaving this great country and the important work they have been doing there, but are also happy to come home again. The photo on the right is part of our team with some of the native Sri Lankans.
Between March 27th and March 30th, all of our team members arrived back home safe and sound.
Photos: VIER PFOTEN International/Mihai Vasile