News update from Indonesia
Our team in Indonesia has issued a report on recent activity at the centre, from the sterilisation of stray dogs and cats to dental xrays of endangered slow lorises. We are extremely grateful to vets Karthi and Paolo Martelli for lending us their support and giving us the benefit of their extensive veterinary experience.
Sterilisations of cats and dogs in the village of Curug Nangka
In February this year, Karthi Martelli, a Malay Animal Welfare Veterinarian, visited International Animal Rescue's centre in Indonesia to help us with our operations. Karthi has always been involved with wildlife and runs a sterilisation programme for macaques in Hong Kong. She currently works at the SPCA, an organisation which concentrates on the sterilisation of stray dogs and cats in Hong Kong. She also actively lobbies the Malay government to try to reduce macaque-human conflict without culling animals. This is done through education: a future sterilisation programme is planned.
Karthi visited us for the third time to assist with sterilising dogs and cats in the village of Curug Nangka, home to IAR's rehabilitation centre in Indonesia. Both dogs and cats are well respected in this Muslim village. For dogs, this is quite a rarity: most Muslim people regard dogs as ritually unclean, and in many places dogs are treated badly. The people in the village of Curug Nangka, however, view dogs as guards and companions, and treat the animals well. Puppies and kittens, which are numerous in this tropical climate, are also loved and people bring them to the centre for us to take care of them. We want to encourage this, since sick and starving kittens and puppies are seen everywhere in other villages. We have limited capacity though... and with 16 dogs and 30 cats, we feel we are stretching our limits. The sterilisation programme is therefore important not only for animal welfare, but also for us! We were hoping for cooperation but sterilisation is another taboo in Muslim culture. Thankfully it was soon clear that the villagers understood the need to limit numbers and were all too happy to give their pet to us for sterilisation. We also did a health check of each animal, and dewormed and vaccinated them. Then, they were returned to their happy owners. We want to thank Karthi for her invaluable support helping us and the villagers with the welfare of their pets.
Paolo Martelli is the husband of Karthi Martelli, who visited International Animal Rescue in Indonesia to help with sterilisations of cats and dogs in the village of Curug Nangka. Paolo has an array of experience in different species of wildlife. He is currently Chief Veterinarian at Hong Kong Ocean Park, and was Chief Veterinarian of Singapore Zoo for many years.
Paolo visited our centre in Indonesia to help us set up two X-ray machines (one body and one dental X-ray machine) that have been kindly donated to us by Ricardo Saiz Nanin from Centro Veterinario LAKUA, a veterinary clinic in Vitoria, Spain and by Paul Cassar from the UK, respectively. We were also lucky that Aubrey Thomas of Team AM offered to handle the freight of the machines free. Since Paolo already has experience of the dental X-ray machine, he also taught us how to operate it.
X-ray machines are very important for an animal clinic that receives mistreated animals in various conditions. International Animal Rescue in Indonesia cares for macaques and slow lorises. The slow lorises are particularly in need of dental X-rays. In the animal markets, sellers usually extract the front teeth of slow lorises using pliers. As no pain killers are used, this is an agonising and traumatic operation, and many animals die in the process. Even if an animal survives, dental problems persist. Since teeth are not extracted properly, parts of the teeth stay in the gums, causing infections and pain. With the dental X-ray machine, we can obtain an image of what the gums look like and remove the remnants of the teeth. Although they will be left without front teeth, at least they can live without pain after the operations, and have proved that they are able to feed normally in captivity. Reintroduction into the wild is more difficult. Slow lorises' teeth are arranged in such a way that they act as a ‘comb', with which they access favourite food sources, such as scraping resin from trees. Since it is not yet known how animals without front teeth would cope with their handicap in the wild, they are currently kept at the IAR rescue centre. We hope that research and experience will in the future enable us to release these animals into the wild, possibly with dental implants. Until this is possible, we are happy to know that they can at least spend the rest of their lives free from pain and among other members of their own species. We would like to thank Centro Veterinario LAKUA and Paul Cassar for providing us with the X-ray machines, Aubrey Thomas and Team AM for the free freight, and Paolo for kindly helping us with setting up and operating the equipment: thanks to them, our slow lorises can now live free from pain.
At our centre in Ciapus we sterilise all the macaques that we take in. There are three reasons for us to sterilise them. First of all, they live in captivity: if they are breeding, the population will soon become too big and we will lack space to care for them all. Second, we don't know the origin of our animals; if we release them in a natural habitat, we do not want them to breed with the animals originally living in the area. Finally, sometimes we release animals in a suitable, non-natural habitat; in these instances, we want to keep the population size under control.
Since we cannot operate on the animals after release, a sterilisation method needs to be permanent. For males, therefore, we use vasectomy: this keeps their testicles and hormones intact. For females, we have opted for tubectomy, the removal of fallopian tubes, to keep the organ and hormones intact. Keeping testicles, organs and hormones intact is important for social skills and social hierarchies in the group.
Performing a tubectomy on females without an endoscope leaves a wound at the abdomen. This brings with it the risk of the animal pulling out the stitches, resulting in infections. Using an endoscope, the same operation can be performed with only a very small incision of 3-4mm, eliminating the risk of pulling out stitches and infections. Therefore, we were extremely grateful for the endoscope that was donated to us by STORZ Medical Equipment. Paolo Martelli also has extensive experience performing operations using endoscopes. We therefore asked him to help us sterilise the female macaques that we were planning to release shortly afterwards. With his help and with the endoscope, we sterilised our female macaques without complications during or after the operations. This will enable us to reintroduce the macaques into the wild which is the ultimate goal of our rehabilitation efforts. We would like to thank STORZ and Paolo for making this possible!