The coast, cows, and a whole lotta ticks!!!

By: Hanna Hone and Chantel Doyle – QES Vet Interns – July 16/19

Hi again, everyone!  We are now back in Meru County after taking a break on the Kenyan South Coast.  

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(Photo1: Maisha Marefu ‘Long Life’) 

Our visit to Diani Beach could not have been more perfect; the perfect weather, perfect beaches and perfect friendships. We spent most of our time relaxing on the soft, white sand working on our summer (in the African winter) tans, and enjoying the beautiful blue, and amazingly warm, water. We ate fresh fish straight from the fishermen, bartered with Maasai for beautiful beaded trinkets, and even tackled surfing for the first time! We were also lucky enough to get to spend Canada Day on a disappearing island where we snorkelled in the Indian Ocean…,yes, a disappearing island! We set out early in the morning while watching the beautiful corals and fish pass underneath our glass bottom boat. Upon approaching the island, the captain even jumped in the water with some bait to draw in more fish for us to marvel at, and brought up a few marine creatures including sea spiders (aka brittle stars) and other sea stars as well. We were dropped off at the island with our beach blankets, snorkelling gear and Canada flag in tow and spent an hour snorkelling and enjoying the sun before the high tide engulfed the sand bar and we headed back to shore. Our fellow travelers helped us bring Canada Day to a close with sparklers and festivities. We will never forget our new friends and the stunning sunrises and sunsets that were something out of a fairy tale. Everything about this vacation left us feeling revived and we were ready to return to Naari and continue the important work we came to Kenya to complete. 

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(Photo 2: A view with friends)

Upon our return we were immediately challenged with navigating new dairy zones to find candidates for our research study and battling some ailments at the same time. First, Hanna’s nose decided that the transition from the Diani humidity to Meru dryness was too much and she suffered relentless nose bleeds, while Chantel’s newfound “Kenyadian” attitude got the best of her and eating guava straight from the tree led to her being bed-ridden for a day 

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(Photo 3: Can’t stop won’t stop)

But nothing could keep us down and we pressed on. Luckily the farmers were as courteous as ever, and although we had no prior arrangements, the farmers were more than happy to point us in the direction of more cows. It turned into the most productive week to date as we ended up visiting 27 farms and admitting new trial candidates into the study as well as examining many cattle for the observational portion of the study.

The Naari farms situated at the edge of the Mount Kenya Forest reap its benefits, but at the same time, are also challenged by it. During times like now where there is little water for irrigation and crops, farmers are able to easily send their livestock to the forest to graze the lush vegetation. However, with this grazing comes a high rate of tick-borne disease. The majority of farms we visited had evidence of current or recovered animals with East Coast Fever or Anaplasmosis, both diseases that are transmitted by ticks. Unfortunately the dogs and cats also struggle with the ticks in the area, and therefore after completing our cow physical exams, we spent any down-time on tick removal duty. 

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(Photo 4: Tick picking is a serious job)

Also, as crazy as it seems, elephant invasions are also a problem for these farmers. We encountered many shambas (farms) with portions that were trampled by elephants who ventured from the nearby forest to find water and feed. They specifically love bananas, but I mean, who can blame them?

As per usual, another highlight of the week was meeting some of the amazing people that call Kenya home. We had the unfortunate timing of arriving at one homestead during a Women’s group meeting, but they were gracious and welcomed us to complete our work before inviting us for tea and laughing at Hanna’s attempts to dance and sing along to the music 

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(Photo 5: Tea Time)

It was here that we encountered a handful of beautifully coloured cows and one twelve month old heifer that was so petite that she barely fit our weight tape! We couldn’t believe how cute she was. 

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(Photo 6: Daniel and his tiny new friend)

We also had the opportunity to meet a resilient older woman who lived alone with her two dogs as companions. We were disheartened to learn that this woman had been robbed of a cow not too long ago but, in response, she built a large rock wall around her property to protect her belongings and ‘friends.’ She ran her compound independently and shoeless, while handling her difficult cow by singing her songs (seriously, singing songs to her cows) and bribing the cow with grain. 

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(Photo 7: A strong Kenyan woman and her loyal companions)

We feel so grateful and privileged every single week to have the opportunity to learn and experience so much in this beautiful country. Even in the hard moments, we know that, at the end of the day, everything we encounter will come together to make us better veterinarians for our future patients. With our trip to the coast marking the halfway point of our stay in Kenya, we now feel that the end is in sight and are determined to make the most of the time we have left! 





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