January - June 2002


Well, perhaps it was too good to be true.
After the management of the Palma Rima agreed to join GambiCats in January this year, Dodou and his assistants had caught, taken for neutering and returned to site some 51 cats by June. An incredible number, many probably coming in from the surrounding area. The management built a Cat Cafe - the second in The Gambia - and all seemed to be going well.
The hotel closed for the summer for refurbishment and we started to feed the resident colony of cats which amounted to around 18 who regularly visiting the Cat Cafe.

Then, in early June, Dodou received a bombshell - a call from the manager to say "Please take away all the cats. We don't want them here any more".  After so much hard work and so much support from the hotel we were amazed. We asked why they had changed their position and were told that "..guests had complained and cats were still coming into the restaurant".

In vain we explained that the Cat Cafe had only been operating for a few weeks and that the cats had to get used to it gradually. In vain we went over the reasons for neutering the cats and explained that there would always be cats at the hotel. Our arguments went unheard.  So with very heavy hearts Dodou and his team set about re-trapping the cats and re-locating them.

The owner of the Palma Rima was persuaded to keep the Cat Cafe and assess the situation again when the hotel re-opens in the autumn. We hope to send out a cat scaring device to try out at the entrance to the restaurant. Meanwhile we have once again felt the power of complaints from guests who don't like cats and would urge our supporters to always make sure that the hotel managers know that they appreciate seeing healthy cats around their hotels.


In May we were contacted by holidaymakers from Belgium staying at the Senegambia. They reported the netting and subsequent disappearance of 4 kittens in suspicious circumstances. They also reported a mysterious female who claimed to be a vet and who was extremely abusive when her role in the disappearance of the kittens was questioned. The Belgian women also said that a male member of the hotel staff, Mr Ousman N'dow,  made threats about what would happen if they reported matters to anyone.

While we do not know exactly what happened on this occasion the 'disappearances' of cats and dogs correspond with information from UK tourists staying at the Senegambia. This is the first time that claims have been made that official veterinary staff are involved and we have yet to find any evidence to confirm that this was so, or that the woman was anything other than a member of staff. It is also the first time that threats have been made to intimidate guests and this is also a very worrying development.

We have passed on this information to The Gambia Experience as a warning that such threats may be used in the future against other guests but have had no response from them to date.


Remain calm - it is best to collect as much evidence as possible about the event. It is unlikely that you will be able to do much at the time but if you have good information about the people concerned, descriptions of the animals, the time and place of the event, and if possible witnesses who will confirm your complaint later, you have a better chance of helping the animals.

If the situation occurs on the beach or outside the hotel it is even more necessary to remain calm and not interfere if the situation may escalate suddenly. Heated arguments win no battles. You will make a better impression on the culprits and those who will inevitably gather around if you can present a quiet reasoned case. The image of the angry rich tourist who prefers animals to people is not one that will help  change attitudes.

Try and write down the full details and present them to the appropriate person, usually the hotel manager and your tour rep.  If this fails to get any satisfactory reply you can contact GambiCats Coordinator, Dodou Bojang, on 900756 and if it is possible he will try to help.

When you get back to the UK write formally to the tour operator  (with a copy to GambiCats if you can) and contact us (see bottom of page for details).

We know that such letters and complaints help to build a case to persuade those in The Gambia who are seriously interested in the value of tourism, and also in animal welfare,  that they need to become involved in preventing such situation arising.

Such letters to tour operators can result in some pressure being put on hotel managers and owners, especially when serious threats are being made to tourists by hotel staff.


Despite the setback at the Palma Rima the neutering message continues to spread and we are very happy to announce that the following have joined GambiCats since February:

Ali Baba, Banna Beach, Calypso Bar
Fawlty Towers, Ngala Lodge, Tafbel


In May this year we were delighted to receive a grant to help neuter pet cats and dogs in The Gambia. These funds will be used to help Gambians get their pets neutered and spread the message of responsible pet ownership. As The Gambia has just been listed as the third poorest country in the world, we know that most Gambians have no possibility of doing more for their dogs and cats than feeding them subsistence scraps and giving them water.  The Pet Plan grant will make it possible to help these animals and their owners at a desperate time and we are very appreciative of this support for widening the scope of GambiCats' work.


This year it seems more hotels than ever are closing during the off season - April to October. This means no food for the cats who have grown used to being fed by tourists and sometimes the hotels' kitchens. As we have created stable colonies of neutered cats at these hotels it would be unthinkable to allow them to die through hunger and disease during the rainy season so, as usual, we are organising feeding for them on some 7 sites.

We are grateful to the Alice Noakes Trust for funding this programme for the fourth year.


Thanks to the UFAW grant (see Update 6), funds from WSPA and donations from individual veterinary practices in the UK, we have now been able to send out 2 portable autoclaves and one reconditioned surgical table as well as a number of instruments.  These have been gratefully received and are already in use. We have also been able to send a small but steady supply of veterinary materials and medicines as a result of the article in the Veterinary Times in May this year.


In April Dodou travelled to Jenoi, Lower River Division, for a 3 day Workshop held for veterinary assistants to inform them of the structure and responsibilities of the new Gambian Veterinary Council. A number of presentations were made on various aspects of the work of the Veterinary Council including talks from Dr B Loum, Registrar; Dr Sanyang, Chair; Dr Bakary Touray and Dr Eunice Foster.

The photograph below shows a number of the Workshop participants.



We are waiting to hear if any funds will be made available towards the provision of our clinic facility - decision is expected in September but, once again, there are a large number of needy applicants.


The following are always needed and can be sent to us, or taken out if you are going to The Gambia yourselves:
antiseptic cream or powder for minor skin wounds:
multi-purpose ear cleaners
suture material
Drontal worm tablets for cats and dogs
flea powder
surgical gloves

If your local vet or hospital can help please let us know. The medicines can be a little past their 'use by' date. We can supply further information if needed by the vet including lists of instruments which are also needed.