Serengeti Field Diaries

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September 26, 2014
Help Fight Rabies a World Away

Let’s face it. Going to the vet can be a chore. Between conflicting schedules, traffic and doctor availability, simply scheduling an appointment can be challenging. Convincing your dog, or better yet, your cat, that going to the vet is a good thing, can be tricky (Isn’t it funny how cats refuse to get into the carrier at home but then refuse to get out at the vet?). And that doesn’t even mention looking for parking and then waiting for the doctor once you finally get there.

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December 12, 2011
Welcome to the Serengeti!

It’s my very first time to Africa, and my introduction to the wonders of Tanzania and Serengeti National Park has been simply amazing! As a veterinarian passionate about conservation medicine, it has been a treat to see more than 80 native mammals and birds in a few short hours in the Serengeti.

December 9, 2011
Siku ya Chanjwa! (Vaccination Day!)

Earlier in the season we joined forces with the Serengeti Health Initiative team to vaccinate dogs for rabies, distemper and parvovirus in Nangale village. The line was long, the sun was hot and there were lots of nervous puppies around. By the end of the day we vaccinated 350 dogs!

November 9, 2011
Sensa ya Watu na Mbwa (Human and Dog Census)

“Sasa, hi ni GPS…kama simu.” (Now, this is a GPS…kind of like a cell phone.) Chunde is explaining to the village leaders we’re working with as part of my domestic-dog demography research what a GPS unit is and how to use it.


Field Assistant Chunde Bigambo trains local leaders how to census people—and dogs—in their region.
October 4, 2011
Meals in the Field

My last post inspired a reader to ask what I eat while I’m in the field. Excellent question! While in Tanzania, I try to eat as much of the amazing fresh fruit as possible, if it’s available. Typically during this time of year (the dry season), there isn’t much of a fruit selection in the villages other than some bananas and tomatoes.

September 21, 2011
Back to Buyubi!

My field assistant, Chunde Bigambo, and I are back in Buyubi Village, a control village (a village where dogs are not vaccinated). We’re tracking all the dogs we marked here last year by visiting our study households and checking all dogs for ear tattoos and microchips.

We need to be able to identify each dog individually because many dogs not only look similar, they also have the same name!

September 12, 2011
Nimerudi! (I Have Returned!)

Here we go again! I’m back in Tanzania gearing up for my second field season studying free-roaming domestic dog population dynamics west of Serengeti National Park. I’m excited to see how all my study dogs are doing as well as reconnect with all my village friends.

This year I am revisiting the same households I collected data in last year. In 2010, I marked more than 800 dogs with ear tattoos and microchips so I can follow their life histories (life expectancy, survivorship and reproductive rates) for four years.

April 4, 2011
A Grim Reminder

I recently experienced a sad reminder of the importance of the Serengeti Health Initiative. On a drive out of the Serengeti, whilst passing through the Ngorongoro Conservation Area (NCA), I discovered a spotted hyena lying out in the midday sun having convulsions by the side of the road. It passed away soon after. Through the prompt action of the NCA veterinary team, samples were taken that have since tested positive for the rabies virus.

February 15, 2011
Nangale Vaccination Day

The road to Nangale village was filled with people walking their dogs, tugging uncertain puppies along on palm fiber leashes. If this were the bike path along Lake Shore Drive, this wouldn’t be so surprising. However, I was in Tanzania studying free-ranging domestic dogs that typically don’t get daily walks—they receive plenty of exercise herding, guarding livestock and protecting their households.

January 25, 2011
Mvua Atakuja (Rain is Coming)

I was in Nangale village at the start of rainy season, continuing to mark dogs for my dog demography study and there, was a sense of urgency in the air. “Mvua atakuja,” said Mayenga, the Nangale village chairman, as he surveyed the horizon. It was a clear cloudless day, and I had just stumbled upon an interesting spider as we were on our way to another household in search of dogs.

December 2, 2010
Aungurumapo Simba, Mcheza Nani?

or, "When the Lion Roars, Who Will Dare to Play (or Pack)?"

So the plan was to spend the day packing and gearing up for the next set of villages where we’ll be conducting our research, but we ran into this pride of lions enjoying their freshly obtained dinner. We couldn’t help but observe them for almost an hour, especially since we will be away for quite some time during the next leg of my research.

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