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 Animals  Ecuador Project #39076

Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands

by Animal Balance
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Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Save All Species on The Galapagos Islands
Our team doing outreach in August.
Our team doing outreach in August.

Animal Balance (AB) has worked in the Galapagos Islands since 2004, and is dedicated to resolving conflicts between people, wildlife, and domestic animals. The most ethical and effective solution to these conflicts is reducing the dog and cat population through sterilization utilizing a community-based model. We collaborate with local partners to provide strategies on humane population management, veterinary and technician training, population mapping and census collection, targeted sterilization and vaccination clinics, humane animal handling training and interactive community events to celebrate the human-animal bond. 

Animal Balance’s work on the Galapagos Islands serves as a global model demonstrating our mission: to collaborate with communities in need to create sustainable and humane animal management programs, in order to prevent suffering and ignite social change.

For 16 years Animal Balance has been using a grassroots community-based model to positively impact overpopulation on the Galapagos Islands. We created a cat and dog animal population control program for the Municipal areas of the three main islands in 2004, in partnership with ABG, the Municipality and the Park. Within a year, the program ignited social change and enabled the community to choose to take responsibility for their pets. The ability for local residents to provide basic veterinary care for their cats and dogs also protects the delicate species, like marine iguanas, who share the islands. The communities on each island embraced the cat and dog program, making it their own. The endemic and native species were better protected, and the community was able to take control of their cats and dogs and have a life-long relationship with them as ‘pets’. 

As of January 2019, the authorities have not secured funding for a veterinarian for San Cristobal.  ABG has sent over the Santa Cruz vet every few months for treatments, but there is no veterinarian on the island to serve the community on a full-time basis. Unfortunately that means there are no opportunities for the community to provide basic veterinary care for their pets, other than the occasional visit by ABG vet from Santa Cruz. There was not a census carried out in 2019, but just from a visual standpoint, Animal Balance and the authorities can see that the population of dogs is increasing. ABG did conduct a census in December 2019 and we are awaiting those results.

Now, as we enter 2020, the Municipality on San Cristobal has taken a positive step further with the creation of an ordinance for mandatory spay/neuter for 100% of the cats and dogs on the island, to be enforced in two years. The ordinance also requires that animals not be running loose on the streets, but confined to their yards. Animal Balance will play a key role in the implementation of this ordinance through hosting a free high quality, high volume spay/neuter clinic in May of 2020. This campaign will be the catalyst for the new ordinance, bringing awareness to the community as well as the opportunity for action. 

In addition to the need for free spay/neuter, there is a need for vaccinations. Prior to our May clinic, a small team of volunteers from Animal Balance will travel to the community of San Cristobal to provide DHPP vaccinations and other basic veterinary care for local dogs. Distemper in particular has been a problem on the island recently, so by vaccinating dogs in February and again in May, the overall population will be healthier and will make better candidates for surgery. 

As mentioned above, the need for this project stems from a complete lack of veterinarians on San Cristobal. In response to the lack of available veterinary care on the island, Animal Balance has created a Visiting Vet Rotation program. This program will commence when we arrive in February. Our first Visiting Veterinarian is an Animal Balance Alumna who has traveled with us on multiple campaigns, Dr. Mary McKinney. She will be living on San Cristobal for two weeks and working alongside Dr. Isa, who is from Colombia and has also worked with Animal Balance on similar projects. Together they will provide free care for animals in need. 

As part of our ten-year agreement with ABG, we will work together to host the upcoming free spay/neuter clinic in May. We have an excellent site in which to host our clinics, and the community has become quite adept at spreading the word via word of mouth as soon as we announce our arrival date. Our goal is to host five days of clinic where we will sterilize and vaccinate up to 350 dogs and cats. During the clinic we will also distribute leashes and collars so that everyone will be able to keep their pets from roaming the streets as per the new ordinance.

In addition to providing leashes and collars, Animal Balance is launching a new program called Green Footprint, or Huella Verde. There are 2 components to this new program and we expect it to grow organically as more volunteers and NGOs become involved. The program will aid with the implementation of new ordinance, as it is a recycling and repurposing program that helps with animal management. The components are; Bottles to Bricks and T-shirts to Totes. We will be implementing these programs through 2020, step by step.

The Bottles To Bricks program will initially focus on recycling and repurposing plastics used in our clinics, ABG, Municipality, a local School and a local hotel. If there is sufficient local participation, it will extend further into the community. Beginning in February, all single use plastics will be put into larger plastic bottles and turned into “bricks” which will then be used to construct free, humane containment walls for local residents to keep dogs in their yards. The plastics will be collected from February to May and then during the MASH clinic in May, a team will build dog houses for the community from the plastic bricks and pallets. One of our Columbian vets suggested the idea in 2019 as she had successfully implemented it in her clinic and in December, we were given permission by the authorities to start the program on San Cristobal.

The T-Shirt to Totes program focuses on replacing plastic bags. Volunteers throughout the USA have been making totes from their t-shirts and we currently have 500 made to go. The Huella Verde Program logo features the iconic dancing Blue Footed Boobie, but with green feet instead of blue, and the international recycling logo on his stomach.  All of the bags will include this logo as well as the Animal Balance logo. We will give these totes out in February to key shopkeepers to see if people will use them. In May, when we return, we will take more and also set up a bin at the airport for tourists to drop off their unwanted shirts as they leave.

Eventually we would like to add a third element to this program, that will allow us to repurpose plastics in a self contained unit, to turn plastics into dog collars and food bowls etc. We are researching this at this time and hope to have a plan by mid-year. At this time though, we have collected hundreds of collars and leashes and will give them to the community in May as a reward for sterilizing their pets.

One of the greatest challenges that the local community faces in adhering to the new ordinance is that it is incredibly expensive to purchase leashes and collars on the island, and even more expensive to build a fence capable of humanely confining a dog as required by the new ordinance. By bringing leashes and collars in to distribute for free to the community and creating the new Huella Verde Program, we are able to address both issues and help the community comply with the new ordinance. 

In order to provide even further spay/neuter services, Animal Balance has reached out to World Vets, an organization whose mission is to improve the health and well being of animals by providing veterinary aid, training and disaster relief worldwide, to continue providing free spay/neuter clinics on the island of San Cristobal. World Vets has agreed to host a three-week campaign in August and will also return in 2021 and possibly into the future as needed. Animal Balance also plans to return for another round of clinics in late 2020 and again in 2021. The Visiting Vet Rotation program will continue to be managed by Animal Balance and will be an ongoing program, bridging the gap between high quality, high volume sterilization campaigns hosted by Animal Balance and World Vets. 

Animal Balance is requesting $10,000 from the Galapagos Conservancy in order to plan and implement our upcoming May clinic on San Cristobal. Without this campaign, the Municipality will struggle to get momentum behind their new ordinance. Animal Balance would like to help make the launch of the new ordinance a huge success, and can do that by utilizing our existing relationships in the community, as well as through providing free services, fun activities and education for the community so that everyone knows what to expect and how to comply with the new ordinance. 

2020 Objectives for Animal Balance and ABG

February 2020: Host an outreach campaign on San Cristobal where we provide vaccinations and other basic veterinary care as well as education regarding the upcoming ordinance. This project will include Animal Balance’s first Visiting Veterinarian who will work alongside Dr. Isa from Colombia to provide care for animals who currently have no access to veterinary care. This program will be ongoing through 2020 so that the island of San Cristobal always has access to a veterinarian. 

Introduce the Huella Verde Program to the community of San Cristobal and give a presentation to the Municipality of Santa Cruz regarding the program. 

The community collects plastics and creates plastic bricks.

The shopkeepers give out Totes.

May 2020: Animal Balance will work with ABG to host a high quality, high volume sterilization and vaccination campaign over a five day period, sterilizing 350 animals and promoting the new spay/neuter ordinance. We will be distributing free leashes and collars to community members to help them comply with the new ordinance. 

A construction team will take the collected plastic bricks and pallets and build dog houses for people.

August 2020: Animal Balance has consulted with World Vets who will be sending a team in for a three week sterilization/vaccination clinic. 

Late 2020: Animal Balance will return for another sterilization/vaccination campaign. 

Thank you for the opportunity to share our plans and for the invitation to request support from The Galapagos Conservation. Your continued support is the key to making these programs become a reality for the people, animals and the environment of the Galapagos Islands. 

Dr. Isa doing wellness in August.
Dr. Isa doing wellness in August.
One of our outreach clients and his dog.
One of our outreach clients and his dog.
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The very first MASH style spay/neuter clinics on the Galapagos Islands were started by Animal Balance in 2004, and they continue today. This unique, humane method for controlling the populations of cats and dogs has resulted in unprecedented protection of the resident species. Thousands upon thousands of cats and dogs have been sterilized and vaccinated for free over the past 16 years. The program has been such a huge success due in large part to the support from the local community, especially the authorities tasked with protecting resident species endemic to these islands. The community and authorities both recognized the positive outcomes of  our program, and now advocate for it within the political structure on the islands. 

Animal Balance has played a vital role in humanely controlling the cat and dog populations on these islands over the past 15 years. But now the islands face a challenge which could prove far greater to control: PLASTIC. 

This silent killer arrives on the three key currents which collide with the islands 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador. If you add to that the plastic waste generated by the over 300,000 tourists who visit the islands annually, and the plastic waste left behind by the 30,000 people who live on the islands, the results are devastating. As social media has made us so well aware, this plastic ultimately ends up in the stomachs of some of the most sensitive wildlife on Earth, both on land and in the ocean. The wild residents of the Galapagos Islands will not survive this ongoing onslaught of plastic without immediate intervention. 

The Animal Balance teams have witnessed the accumulation of plastics on the islands over the years. From marine iguanas with plastic bottles stuck on their heads, to Darwin finches feeding out of plastic cups of flavored ice, slowly but surely every species on the islands has started to feel the effects of the overabundance of plastic.

The Galapagos National Park Service has approached Animal Balance a number of times over the years to request urgent veterinary care for sea lions who have thick plastic wrapped around their necks, hoping to save them from imminent death. Our compassionate volunteer Veterinarians and clinic volunteers have spent many nights sitting up with these ailing sea lions as they are coming out of anesthesia. Our teams make the best of what supplies we have available in these situations, utilizing dog kennels to give the sea lions time to recover from anesthesia prior to releasing them back into the wild a few hours later, hoping they survive. 

Right now, Animal Balance is in a unique position to intervene on the Galapagos. Having worked on the islands for over 16 years, we have built friendships and relationships with generations of community members and authorities who trust that when we say we are going to help, we will. Working together with our on-island partners, we have come up with a plan, and now we need your help to ignite it. 

Animal Balance is excited to announce that in 2020, with the help of the authorities, we will be launching two new programs which will be implemented on the Galapagos Islands, both with the goal of reducing the amount of plastic on the islands AND repurposing the existing plastic waste into usable material. Today, we are formally announcing the beginning of the T-Shirts To Totes Program and the Bottles To Bricks Program.

The T-Shirts To Totes Program recruits volunteers from all over the United States by challenging them to repurpose a t-shirt that they already own and turn it into a tote bag. The idea is to then distribute these T-Shirt Totes throughout the Galapagos Islands, as a means of replacing plastic bags without creating more waste in the process. Every T-Shirt Tote will have a message in both Spanish and English thanking the person using it for saving one more plastic bag from entering our world’s oceans. When the 300,000 tourists who visit the islands each year leave to return home, they will each be asked to donate a t-shirt so that the community can continue to make totes from them. Because of our existing relationships, this program has already been approved by the authorities responsible for the protection of biodiversity and biosecurity on the islands and can be implemented as soon as we are ready.

The Bottle Bricks to Dog House Program will repurpose plastic waste into “eco-bricks” which can be used to build dog houses and fences for families on the islands. Everyone (schools, offices, hotels, yachts etc.) will collect their plastics and put them into 2-liter empty plastic bottles. These bottles become ‘eco-bricks’ and can be used to build dog houses and fences. Local residents cannot afford dog kennels, but in order to keep sensitive species safe, and according to an ordinance recently adopted on the islands they must keep their dogs confined. The eco-bricks will make it possible for local families to safely and humanely confine their dogs to their yards, while reducing the amount of plastic which would have otherwise ended up in the trash. 

Two simple, grassroots programs which have the potential to quickly and positively impact all species of the Galapagos Islands. Our goal is to implement these two programs in 2020, as we have no time to waste if we want to preserve the Galapagos Islands. We realize our goals are lofty, but we never would’ve dreamed that we would be in a position to create this type of social change when we started back in 2004, and we’re not about to stop now. 

Our goal: $10,000 by the end of this year. 

The time to act is NOW. The stakes are too high not to do everything we can right now. Join us in promoting refuse, reuse and recycle when it comes to all plastics on these incredible islands. Join us in igniting social change so that tourists stop inadvertently loving one of the most precious and delicate ecosystems on planet Earth to death. 

 



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In 2019, the Animal Balance Galapagos program is placing its full focus on one island, San Cristobal.  In recent years, AB has been concerned with the increase in free-roaming cats seen on San Cristobal Island, and we have taken steps to address this by introducing humane cat traps, and veterinary training on high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter for ABG veterinarians, including for the new, permanently assigned San Cristobal ABG vet.  Unfortunately, ABG budget cuts in the last quarter of 2018, eliminated the veterinary position on San Cristobal, and extinguished the expectation that cat population growth could be addressed with a combination of ongoing cat spay/neuter on the island and AB’s annual high-volume sterilization campaigns.

Since 2004, when AB introduced cat and dog spay/neuter as the centerpiece of a comprehensive humane animal management framework for the Galapagos Islands, we have actively collaborated with local agencies to methodically reach and maintain a 70%-80% sterilization rate that keeps the population in check.  Because sterilization surgeries on San Cristobal are not keeping pace with population growth, especially in cats, we believe it is critically important to undertake a focused and intensive multi-year intervention, including humane education, sterilization of large numbers of cats (and unfixed dogs as needed), and implementation of an ongoing cat count that introduces a permanent method for monitoring the cat population and percentage of cats that are sterilized on San Cristobal.  An additional component of this year’s AB plan is to provide our ABG partners with humane dog traps and expert training on their use, as there is a need to protect local wildlife from loose dogs, and to be able to return the dogs to their guardians with education on responsible pet care.

2019 San Cristobal AB Project Components

  • San Cristobal Cat Count Introduction and Training
  • Humane Education and Vaccination Campaign (Late Summer)
  • Two-Week Sterilization Campaign: 1,000 Cats/300 Dogs (Early December)
  • Humane Dog Traps/Training

The San Cristobal Cat Count

Working in consultation with biologist and biostatistician John Boone, PhD, Animal Balance is introducing a method to quantitatively document the state of free-roaming cats on San Cristobal Island, employing relatively simple standardized cat monitoring protocols (i.e. cat counting), similar to those being developed as part of the D.C. Cat Count Project (see www.dccatcount.org).  The protocols employ a combination of periodic counts in predetermined areas, and ongoing population occupancy monitoring.  These techniques will allow AB/ABG to document program impacts, adjust program efforts as needed in order to maximize these impacts, and to understand why these impacts occurred.  Also, once we have fine-tuned our approach on San Cristobal, we will expand the cat count to Isabela and Santa Cruz islands.

The initial and future periodic counts will be carried out before and after intensive sterilization efforts, and then at predetermined intervals, most likely quarterly or semi-annually. Information that will be recorded will include exact location, age (adult or kitten), sterilization status (based on presence of an ear tip or not), and a body condition estimate of each cat that is seen, along with the capability to take a linked photograph of the cat and record any ancillary observations.

Ongoing population occupancy monitoring will be done on a more frequent monthly basis, by individuals who are familiar with the cats.  This will allow these individuals to record whether known, recognizable individuals are seen in the designated area or not, and to also note the appearance of any previously unrecorded cats that are individually recognizable.

The AB Ecuadorian-based Galapagos Liaison will oversee the cat count, and recruit volunteers to provide the ongoing occupancy monitoring counts.  Mobile devices will be used for the cat counts, and where there is no cell coverage, cat counters are able to upload data gathered when a wifi network becomes available.  Undertaking ongoing cat monitoring, and including appropriately trained community members in this activity, will provide a means for community members to actively participate in promoting that San Cristobal cats are healthy and sterilized.

Humane Education and Vaccination Campaign

The joint AB/ABG humane education and vaccination campaign will prepare San Cristobal for a massive Animal Balance cat (and dog) sterilization campaign later in 2019.  We will use this outreach with vaccinations and deparacitation for pets, to stress the importance of sterilizing cats, and having their ears tipped to denote it. We will also identify community members who want to participate in the ongoing cat counts.

During this campaign we will also provide much-needed basic veterinary care, provided by the beloved native San Cristobal veterinarian who was recently laid off from ABG (he now practices in Quito).  And we will finalize with ABG a project and communications plan that will map out how to get 1,000 cats to the MASH clinics to be sterilized, and that will also help identify which dogs need sterilization.

High-Volume MASH Sterilization Campaign

In the last quarter of 2019, AB will bring into San Cristobal a veterinary team expert in high-quality, high-volume spay/neuter to sterilize up to 1,000 cats and 300 dogs.  This aggressive but necessary goal is achievable with the coordinated and intensive outreach by ABG/AB and local cat count volunteers. A post-campaign cat count will be conducted to measure the campaign’s effect on the observed sterilization rate, which will inform strategies and decisions for future campaigns.

Outreach and spay/neuter in 2019 will be promoted in the entire island, however, sensitive areas will be targeted as highest priority (proximity to sea lion colonies, for example). Then, working out from these locations in concentric circles.

Humane Dog Traps and Training

Recently, our ABG partners on San Cristobal have noticed an increased number of dogs loose on the streets and beach, and instances of dog bites and threats to local wildlife.  These dogs are elusive and ABG has no ability to capture them.

To provide ABG with resources and training for the safe capture of these dogs (for return to their homes with education for their guardians), Animal Balance will bring humane dog traps to San Cristobal, and provide training by expert trapper Consie von Gontard, Director of Training for the Florida State Animal Response Coalition.  Ms. Von Gontard has worked with Animal Balance on challenging street-dog campaigns, and trapped dogs for spay/neuter from the Bahamas to Samoa. Dog traps and the ability to use them safely and effectively will provide the ABG team with an essential tool for protecting wildlife and the community, while also educating dog guardians about responsible care of their pets.

Conclusion

With its intensive focus on humane education and sterilization for cats (and dogs) on San Cristobal in 2019, Animal Balance expects to once again improve the health status of and stabilize the cat and dog population on San Cristobal Island.  Dog traps and training will enhance ABG’s ability to protect wildlife and the community in general from free-roaming dogs, and will help support the success of ABG’s ongoing “I am a responsible pet owner” campaign.

And institutionalizing the cat count will provide ABG and AB with analytics that will help inform future strategies and focus, allowing us to accurately track the cat population over time.  And citizen involvement in this project will create a new level of engagement by community members with the cats and dogs on their island.



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Organization Information

Animal Balance

Location: Portland, OR - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @animalbalance
Project Leader:
Emma Clifford
Portland, OR United States
$235 raised of $10,000 goal
 
7 donations
$9,765 to go
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