Veterinarians in Musanze District have vaccinated scores of domestic dogs and cats living around Volcanoes National Park, against rabies.
The free vaccination exercise is being implemented by doctors under ‘One Health Team’ in conjunction with the Rwanda Agriculture Board- Animal Resource Extension- with drugs donated by the Mountain Gorilla Veterinary Project.
According to the veterinarians, the campaign which started in 2006 is aimed at checking cases of stray dogs infecting wild animals with rabies.
Rabies, which can be transmitted from domestic pets to humans, and other
animals, is a critical disease that affects wildlife.
"Local veterinarians have estimated a population of about 1,600 dogs
and cats in the area…and 80 percent of them were vaccinated,” Dr.
Jean-Felix Kinani disclosed.
Prior to the vaccination programme, Dr. Kinani explained that very few dogs and cats in the area had been vaccinated against the disease because residents could not afford the vaccine, while few understood the connection between their animals' health and that of their families and wildlife, respectively.
"It is difficult to communicate the importance of good animal management, but through our efforts, people are beginning to understand," Kinani added.
The vets noted that most domestic dogs in the area were, generally, not well cared for as they are expected to scavenge food. Hence, the animals often enter the national park in search of food and water.
The exercise follows reports that indicated the park was losing golden monkeys that may have been killed by dogs.
“Gorilla doctors regularly find dog footprints inside the park and on several occasions have recovered bodies of golden monkeys that appeared to have been killed by dogs. If one of these dogs were rabid, it could pass on the disease to monkeys or gorillas, not to mention humans,” the veterinarians concluded.
Dr. Kinani, who manages the rabies vaccine programme, with assistance of vets from four districts of Rubavu, Musanze, Nyabihu and Burera has trained local veterinarians to administer rabies vaccines and counsel their clients about proper care for their animals.
The veterinarians reportedly visit clients individually throughout the
year and also host rabies clinics at central locations.