Zach Farris, co-director of the Mad Dog Initiative and his wife, Alisha Farris, who also does research in Madagascar on nutrition and community health, were featured in Appalachian Magazine, Drs. Zach and Alisha Farris address conservation and health crises in Madagascar. Zach and Alisha's research are closely related and demonstrates the necessity for interdisciplinary measures to solve issues involved in conservation and health. Check out the article to find out more.
The team has been working hard for several weeks now! The first 3 weeks, the team went to Ranomafana, having hiked, bushwhacked and paddled in dug out canoes to bring veterinary care to some of the most remote villages in the region. But it was all worth it - 86 animals were spayed/neutered in three weeks.
The team was then joined by volunteers from around the world, and headed to Andasibe.
Volunteer Ali Wunderman describes what they experience is like:
"For the past two weeks the vet team has been spaying and neutering the cats and dogs of Andasibe, first getting permission from the town's leadership and then encouraging locals to bring their pets by via radio and word of mouth. Meanwhile the ecology field team has had great progress establishing camera traps throughout the forests surrounding Andasibe, looking for dogs and carnivores to pass by. All of this is happening in the context of the nutrition team determining what food locals are eating, so that all of this information can be collected holistically so we can understand the relationship between these seemingly disparate components. It's been really rewarding working with Malagasy locals to further their understanding of the importance of vaccines and spaying/neutering pets, all of which will hopefully reduce the impact domestic animals have on their wild counterparts. Two weeks to go in Andasibe!"
We want to send a huge THANK YOU out to all wonderful volunteers who are helping out this season!
- Jo Swindells (vet from Melbourne, Australia)
- Kaitlyn Brown and Shawna Ellis (Veterinary students from the Western Veterinary Medical College in Canada)
- Michon Martin (Vet student at Auburn University)
- Ali Wunderman (Vet tech and photojournalist)
- Annie Yang (Princeton undergrad assisting w/ bloodwork)
- Holly Parker (Auburn dietitian undergrad)
- Paola Lopez (Auburn dietitian undergrad)
- Cullen Anderson (Auburn wildlife ecology undergrad)
- Patricia Homonylo (photographer)
- Tsiky Rajaonarivelo (Malagasy veterinarian)
- Zoavana Randriana (Malagasy veterinarian)
We couldn't do this work without you!
We are grateful to the Detroit Zoo for providing MDI with a generous grant, as part of their mandate to conserve wild animals in wild places! The funding we have received this year may mean that 2017 is the first time our team won't have to leave animals untreated because we've run out of expensive medications. Many thanks to the Detroit Zoo on behalf of the team, the lemurs, and the dogs of Madagascar!
We are overjoyed to announce our partnership with Lush Cosmetics! Thanks to their mandate ofsupporting volunteer-run, applied conservation initiatives, we are now actively preparing a five month long expedition to Ranomafana National Park, where we will have the capacity to treat 500 animals. Their support will also allow us to implement a new humane education curriculum pilot project.
The team's first academic publication is now available! Published in the journal Madagascar Conservation and Development, it details how spay/neuter programs are a viable conservation option for the protection of rare species in Madagascar.
Thanks to a generous conservation grant from the Nacey Maggioncalda Foundation, the MDI team has successfully completed another season! Over 100 animals were treated, including dogs and cats in very remote locations. Word about our program is spreading throughout villages in Madagascar and demand for veterinary services are extremely high! For the third year in a row, the team ran out of resources before demand could be filled. We are doing everything we can to secure enough funding to meet the enormous demand in and around Ranomafana National Park! Continued thanks for everyone's support!
As of May 10th, thanks to a generous grant and donations, the Mad Dog Team is back in town, and the demand for the mobile veterinary clinic is as great as ever! The vets are working from dawn to dusk while the biologists survey little-known areas of the national park to assess the health of native wildlife communities!
A great many thanks to the important work and support of the Born Free Foundation and the Virginia McKenna Award for Compassionate Conservation!
Born Free Foundation is delighted to announce that the 3rd Virginia McKenna Award for Compassionate Conservation has been awarded to the Mad Dog Initiative, a project aiming to protect Madagascar’s rare and endemic wildlife through a targeted, compassionate program to control domestic and feral dogs in and around Ranomafana National Park, Madagascar.
The ultimate goal of the project is to understand and diminish the threat posed to endemic wildlife from domestic and feral dogs within rainforest habitat, employing spaying/neutering, vaccination and adoption programs for feral dogs, alongside wildlife monitoring, and extensive survey and educational programmes. The project will have wide-ranging impacts on conservation while also promoting and developing animal welfare across this biodiversity hotspot, benefitting wild animals such as carnivores, lemurs, and small mammals, the welfare of feral dogs, and the conservation and governmental organizations working towards wildlife conservation and improving the livelihoods of local people across this region.
Virginia McKenna OBE, founder of the Born Free Foundation, who met with Zoavina Randriana from the Mad Dog Initiative to present the Award, said: “I am so pleased that the Mad Dog Initiative has won this award. It embodies so much of what we regard as central to Compassionate Conservation. What I particularly admire about this project is that it is inclusive. It benefits wild animals, domestic dogs and people, and I hope will be an inspiration for others to follow.”
Our amazing team of researchers recently completed the first field season for the MDI project. We were able to spay/neuter and vaccinate more than 50 dogs (and 2 cats for good measure) within villages bordering the Ranomafana National Park. In addition, our vet student from the University of Antananarivo was able to conduct more than 250 questionnaires across this region to investigate the role of dogs in local villages and local people's views and husbandry practices towards dogs. These surveys will greatly improve our efforts to address the ultimate reasons as to why dogs are allowed to feral. Finally, camera trapping was a great success as well as our camera team was able to conduct photo surveys over a two month period across four villages bordering this amazing protected area. Currently, these thousands of photos are headed back to Virginia Tech where eager undergraduate students will be entering the data and identifying all the various species captured. After the second field season the data will be compiled and modeled to investigate numerous population parameters for both native and exotic species across the landscape.
The Mad Dog Initiative received funding from the Ruffourd Foundation to conduct our research on the use of domestic and feral dog spay/neuter, vaccination programs to control feral populations and, in turn, help protect and conserve Madagascar's threatened wildlife. We are truly grateful to this amazing organization for their support they have provided over the next two years! We are thrilled to represent their organization as we work towards conservation in Madagascar.