January - June 2006


"Hello gambicats, 2 vets in an old merc are traveling to the gambia as part of the plymouth dakar rally ... once there we are hoping to do some voluntary work for 2/3 wks. If we can help with your work please contact us...."

This email introduced us to two enthusiastic young vets, John Watson and Plunkett McGovern,  and provided an opportunity for us to launch our Third Dog neutering programme. Always aware of the costs of these trips, the offer of 2 free capable vets was one we certainly weren't going to refuse! The Gambia Port Authority (GPA) had been asking us for help with strays dogs at Banjul Port for nearly a year so it seemed a golden opportunity. 



Suzanne Jones, our vet nurse from the 2003 programme, was also able to come - a real necessity with 2 vets on the job. Sadly Carl, our dog-handler, was not available this time so we worked with Dodou together with Foday from the Department of Livestock Services, and Alhajie, GambiCats' assistant, both of whom had already been involved in the 2 previous programmes.

Preparations were made in advance by Dodou, together with Matar Charreh, the representative of the Department of Livestock Services assigned to the GPA, and Suleiman (Sol) Bah from the GPA.  Together they tried to assess the number and habits of the dogs, and chose a former reading room at the port where the operations could take place and the dogs recuperate. The room had a fridge and a WC, also some tables so large that both vets could work at the same time!                                                                         


The vets completed the rally safely and we met up with them in mid-January accompanied by the usual extra boxes of dog cages, worm tablets, vet stuff, leads etc. - in all some 60 kilos of additional baggage!  The 'surgery' was set up with the loan of Dr Ceesay's autoclave and Dr Touray's Vacu-support and dog-catching and operations began on 21 January.

The port dogs were much shyer than the beach dogs which made catching very difficult. The port area is very large with a long shoreline stretching into mangrove swamps. Many of the dogs strayed into Banjul through the gates, the dog catching team had to be constantly aware of the forklift trucks moving gigantic containers around the port as well as other hazards. We recruited the help of Pam, who was knowledgeable about some of the dogs and gradually the team started to catch dogs and sedate them before bringing them back to the surgery.

Thanks to the team's skill,  some 39 dogs were treated over the next 7 days. Most were neutered, given anti-rabies vaccination, microchipped, ear-notched and treated for worms and fleas. One elderly emaciated bitch was put to sleep & two dogs died following surgery. Thanks to the generosity of Westside Vets, the more expensive combination of Torbugesic, Domitor and ketamine was used this time instead of ketamine and xylazine, and it proved to work very effectively. The vets were able to release most dogs within a few hours of surgery. Due probably to the additional stress involved, the dogs needed higher doses of the drugs; most seemed in good condition and their ages ranged from a few months to around 5 years.  


Some of the port employees made the most of the opportunity and brought in their dogs for neutering too. One dog was found to have parvovirus and was sent home on a drip - he was making a good recovery when we left. Inevitably some rescued cats and kittens turned up in the surgery for neutering and treatment.   

Can I really go ?
                        Can I really go ?

As always, events conspired to add extra pressure. Dodou's wife was admitted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in need of a transfusion on the first day.  This meant Dodou had to spend time searching for blood as the RVH had no reserves, and Suzanne and John ended up donating a pint each (using our needles!).   Frances developed bronchitis on arrival and Peter took over documenting the dogs as well as driving to fetch dogs sedated some distance from the surgery.

Plunkett takes a power nap 

John and Plunkett, who were due to visit the Gambia Horse & Donkey Trust up country after helping us, became involved in a few visits to local sick horses. They were also preparing their faithful Merc to be auctioned for charity in The Gambia. Altogether they set about helping and repairing people, animals and cars as necessary! 


                                                                                                                                                      Plunkett takes a power nap

The surgery was dismantled on January 28th and we said our goodbyes. Matar and Sol were anxious to invite us back and were very pleased with the results of the programme. Most of the stray dogs living in the port area appeared to have been caught as well as some living around the gates. However there is a large dog (and cat) population in Banjul which is in great need of help especially as no vets live in the city. Some form of clinic would be the answer - perhaps with visiting vets to help out - and we will investigate possibilities.

l-r Matar, Plunkett, Frances, Dodou, Suzanne, John, Foday, Peter, Sue, Alhajie


In the meantime, Dodou and Matar will be monitoring the treated dogs whenever possible.

Our heartfelt thanks to all who helped make the visit such a success including Westside Vets and World Veterinary Service for generous donations of vet materials.

l-r Matar, Plunkett, Frances, Dodou, Suzanne, John, Foday, Peter, Sue, Alhajie


Val Thompson's ashes were scattered in a quiet corner of the Kairaba gardens by her sister and friends earlier this year. It is a very fitting place near the animals and surroundings which she had enjoyed so much. Her colour booklet The Kairaba cats & other stories is available from GambiCats at £3 to include P&P.

Dodou's first wife, Awa, died in February after a long illness and we send our condolences to Dodou and his family.


Once again the months from April to November will mean fewer visitors to the hotels and less food for the cats. The Kombo already gave us notice that it could spare no more food in April for their Cat Cafe. As usual we will be giving food daily where necessary and are appealing to supporters to help keep the cats healthy during this period.


We are making slow progress to persuade hotels and restaurants to keep a supply of our leaflets and contact information available. Even when we get agreement the leaflets mysteriously disappear and brochures promoting new bars or restaurants appear in our holders instead! Do ask about our leaflets at your hotel - it's best to ask the manager than reception staff who are not allowed to make decisions about such matters.

We have also been trying since 1998 to get some information and contact numbers in the travel agents' literature in the hotels, and were delighted in January to find that Airtours and their associated companies were including this in the hotel folders of information for visitors. Most of the other reps agreed to do the same including The Gambia Experience.

We would appreciate your help in contacting the hotels and your travel reps to urge them to make sure GambiCats' leaflets and information are displayed wherever they may help.



Many of you have responded generously to our appeals for funds and supplies and we would like to say how much this is appreciated. GambiCats is a very small charity but is able to make a considerable difference to the welfare of the cats and dogs because of all your support. We receive letters from visitors who comment on how the situation has improved over the years and the animals look well. Of course we all know that there are many cats and dogs in desperate need of our help, but it is good to be able to see some progress.



As usual we are grateful for supplies of the following items. If you can help take items out to The Gambia, please contact us.

·                    antiseptic cream/powder for skin wounds, ear cleaning powder, sutures expiring after 2003 and absorbable, prescription flea & worm treatment (eg Milbemax or Drontal), cotton wool, swabs, gauze,

·                    dog collars and leads (second-hand in good condition are fine)

·                    old towels/linen to use for bedding and cage covers