B001, or Awilo, as he is called by his owners, was the first dog marked for the domestic dog demography study, my research to understand the impact of the Serengeti Health Initiative’s vaccination campaign on the domestic dog population. Today was our first official day of dog marking, and we were able to mark 12 dogs! It wasn’t necessarily easy though…
Though these dogs technically belong to a household, they are not restrained and roam freely with the livestock to neighboring households and even the village border sometimes. They come to the household to eat, but do not necessarily rely on their human owners as dogs do in the United States.
This makes them difficult to catch and even more difficult to assess once we have them. Most of them are not used to being touched at all, so you can imagine how nervous they get when a stranger wants to not only examine and microchip them but tattoo them as well. The owners, however, are really excited about the study. They find it fascinating that this wageni, or “visitor,” is interested in their dogs. They are more than happy to talk to us about the dogs.
Awilo thought he was getting a late-morning snack when he ran toward his owner this morning. Little did he know that we were waiting in the shadows, ready to include him in my study. Awilo was not exactly happy about being tricked. There was some growling, jumping and wrestling involved, but we were able to microchip him and tattoo him with a unique number, B001, which stands for Buyubi dog #1. After we were done, Awilo ran off to the side of the house to roll around and shake off the whole experience, which gave me an opportunity to get a good picture of him.
We are marking dogs so that we can recognize them in the next few years to track their life expectancy. Many of the dogs here have similar facial features and coat colors, so identification from photographs is rather difficult. Besides, they don’t necessarily want to pose for pictures either, unless you can sneak up on them while they’re resting.