It’s a zoo out there

Post by John Peaveler

In February of this year, K’S PATH received a call about a Hamadryas baboon on the loose in the Friday market. Baboons of this kind tend to compete fiercely for resources, and can be particularly dangerous around food. They are also potential vectors for an astounding number of diseases that affect humans, including rabies, herpes, hepatitis b, HIV, and tuberculosis, to name but a few. A baboon on the loose in a public place, struggling to survive in stressful, unnatural conditions, therefore represents a serious risk to human health. Two of the K’S PATH animal control units therefore quickly responded to the call.

On arriving at the market, we were directed to the Shrimpy’s restaurant, where she had last been sighted. A thorough search of the building, including the roof, led nowhere. Several hours of searching the area around the market and talking to people revealed little except word of an occasional sighting. Eventually we were obliged to go back to our other duties and see what developed.

Later, we received a frantic call from one of the people we had spoken to earlier that day: the baboon was inside Lu & Lu Hypermarket, and people were panicking. This time K’S PATH mobilized all of our units and several volunteers, under the assumption we would have to use a dart gun to catch a baboon inside a crowded supermarket; a very dangerous prospect. By the time we arrive at the scene however, workers had chased the baboon back outside. Now we were faced with the prospect of finding and catching a primate in the dark, in a huge open area. Fortunately, we are experts in animal capture, so we went with our training. With such a recent sighting, we were able to more or less track the animals’ movements through eyewitness accounts. This led to a small cluster of buildings near the main entrance to the manufactured-goods area of the market. Here the trail went cold.

We split up with flashlights and headlamps to see what we could find. The first search revealed nothing. We were just about ready to give up. I was on top of the middle building creeping around looking for what I hoped wasn’t an angry primate, when the beam of my flashlight caught the slightest smudge in the dust inside of an air conditioning unit. A closer look revealed the slight impression of three little baboon prints.

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Operation Potcake

Post by John Peaveler

In early December of 2012, I was asked to participate in a program to sterilize dogs on the Bahamian island of New Providence. The program, organized by the non-profit Animal Balance, was a joint endeavor between Bahamian veterinary and animal welfare organizations, Animal Balance, and a wide array of veterinary professionals, animal catchers, and volunteers from seven countries whose combined goal it was to sterilize an incredible 2,000 or more dogs in a mere two weeks.

The issue of loose dogs on New Providence has been a concern for citizens, government, visitors, and animal welfare supporters for many years. Many communities around the world face the difficulty of managing large populations of free-roaming dogs, and the island of New Providence has a population of approximately 20,000.

Operation Potcake?
Traditionally, potcake refers to the inch or two of compacted, charred remains of rice and peas at the bottom of Bahamian pot-baked dishes. Instead of being discarded, this rice cake was put out for the street dogs as their primary source of nutrition. In time, the islanders began to refer to the dogs themselves as potcakes, and the name has stuck. Generations of tourists coming to enjoy the pristine scenes of the Bahamas have fallen in love with potcakes and given them a reputation throughout the world as loveable street dogs.

Putting it Together
Community based sterilization programs set out to achieve three basic goals: Improved quality of life for street animals, improved quality of life for residents, and decrease the number of animals on the streets. The recent clinics on New Providence did all that and more. In all, five clinics were set up across the 20-mile long island. Residents were encouraged to bring their dogs to the clinics for sterilization and basic treatment. Teams of veterinarians, veterinary technicians, and volunteers at each site documented the animals, processed them for surgery, nursed them through recovery, and made them comfortable until they were reunited with their owners or returned to their territory. Meanwhile, the team I was a part of was tasked to go out and catch dogs that otherwise would not make it to the clinics either because of distance, lack of transport, or because the dogs were not owned.

My Perspective
In Kuwait, I manage a program that has been catching dogs at a rate of 1,500 per year for nearly two years now. Many of our dogs are exceedingly difficult to catch because they have faced so much intentional cruelty like being shot at, having things thrown at them, and being chased by vehicles. They are, as a result, very difficult to catch, and it requires a unique skillset to do so. I was therefore very interested to see how my experience, which has been limited to Kuwait and a few Asian countries, would hold up on an island in the south Atlantic.

Once on the island, I was assigned to a team of four including an animal control technician, a veterinary technician, a local volunteer, and myself. We were given a number of humane live traps (photo above) and a quota for the number of animals we needed to bring back to the clinic every day. Our destinations were low-income neighborhoods where loose dogs were prevalent. We could guess what kind of dogs we would encounter, but we had no idea what kind of people we might meet. It turned out that most of the people we met were absolutely wonderful. On arrival in each area, residents would expostulate: “What are you doing with that dog!” With an explanation that we were taking the dogs to be sterilized and treated then returned within two days, their wall of concern would immediately break down and they would engage all of their friends, neighbors, and family members to bring us their dogs. It was incredible to see. When we found a dog that didn’t seem like it lived in front of a particular house, we would just ask. Someone always knew if the dog was “owned” (some dogs were kept in yards or chained while others were ‘owned’ but loose) or not. People knew every dog on their street. If the owner was inside or away from home, someone would go and get them or make a phone call and set up a time for us to collect the animal. News of our presence would spread like wildfire on every street, and it seemed like every man, woman, and child was ready to help in some way. I was especially amazed and pleased when I caught a dog named Pablo whose brindle coat and friendly personality made him an instant favorite. After placing him on a truck and driving to a different neighborhood to collect more dogs, two kids came up to us on bikes and said “Hey! I know that dog! That’s Pablo!” It was very uplifting to see the communities so engaged in improving the lives of their dogs.

After the first day in the field, we realized that much of our work was not going to be the complex system of trapping difficult dogs I had become so used to in Kuwait. Rather, we found we could simply enter these little micro-communities of a few houses on a side road and tell them what we were doing and how it would help them. We therefore didn’t have to do very much difficult capture. Most of our work became opening cage doors, doing paper work, and carrying the ‘trapped’ dogs around the trucks and clinics. Still, there were plenty of dangerous dogs that required more skill to catch and handle. There were also some truly feral dogs to catch, and I was happy to see that the methods we use in Kuwait are pretty much the same as those people are using around the world.

Bringing it Home
In the end, Operation Potcake sterilized 2,315 dogs in 10 days—a truly phenomenal number. But the true success of this project was not in numbers, no matter how impressive. Operation Potcake proved that when a few passionate people put their hearts, and just as importantly their heads, together toward a common goal, they can bring together communities, change the thinking of a government, inspire a people, and give new value to even so humble a creature as a Bahamian Potcake. Operation Potcake is now a five-year program that will build upon itself and work toward the goal of sterilizing most of the 20,000 dogs on New Providence, and because of the success of the initial operation, the government has now bought into the program. They are now adopting sterilization as a primary method of population control throughout all of the Bahamian islands.

Kuwait has an even bigger problem. We have close to 10,000 feral dogs roaming areas outside of the city, and no one can even estimate the number of cats on the streets. There are certainly hundreds of thousands of the latter. K’S PATH, with our limited funding and staff, is only currently able to handle a few thousand animals each year. However, we have worked tirelessly over the past five years to gain an expert understanding of the root cause of the problem, and we have the knowledge to implement solutions. Industry, namely Kuwait Oil Company and Saudi Arabian Chevron have already taken notice and made us their exclusive contractor for animal population management. For us, our “Operation Potcake” has been completed many times over. We retain the proof of our accomplishments, and we’ve submitted them to the government of Kuwait. We stand ready to act, but we simply cannot do this alone.

Post by John Peaveler
Managing Director
Kuwait Society for the Protection of Animals and Their Habitat (K’S PATH)

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Horse runover on Blajat Street

Post by Mark

This incident happened a couple of days back. It seems they were filming something on Blajat Street and the horse escaped and got hit by a car. The horse died and the uncensored photo looks pretty gruesome. No idea what happened to the car that hit the horse or the driver. [Link]

Warning: Link will lead to graphic image

Thanks Rayboy

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Hedgehog on the loose in Abdaliya

Post by John Peaveler

Big news for wildlife in Kuwait when K’S PATH, together with KOC, released the first mammal into the recently completed Abdaliya nature preserve. The animal in question, a long-eared hedgehog, was found in a garden near the city. Long-eared hedgehogs are solitary mammals that spend much of their lives alone, except during breeding season which occurs in March, just after hibernation. This year, we are planning to relocate many more hedgehogs and fox into the preserve, taking them from high-risk areas or from areas where they are abundant.

Our goal is to create an ecosystem thriving with native wildlife. In the coming months, we will begin efforts to release more hedgehogs as well as Ruppell’s Fox in to the preserve and will be installing nesting boxes and perches for native birds.

You can look forward to more updates on this project soon. Want to make a difference? Keep wildlife wild. Don’t hunt. All forms of hunting are illegal by Kuwait law. Illegal hunting (poaching) has caused the local extinction of many species, and we are constantly finding dead birds around Kuwait. Finally, keep up with or even contribute to our work by visiting K’S PATH on [Facebook]

Post by John Peaveler
Managing Director
Kuwait Society for the Protection of Animals and Their Habitat (K’S PATH)

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The Ahmadi Park Zoo

Post by Mark

I didn’t know the Ahmadi Park had a zoo yet alone one that looks this depressing. Based on the pictures a reader sent me this zoo looks even worse than the Kuwait Zoo.

Thanks Meshal

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Why the Kuwait Zoo is a disaster

Post by Mark

Everyone who’s been to the Kuwait Zoo knows how sad and depressing the place is. I’ve written about it a number of times and it’s just something that has bewildered me for a very long time. Why is the zoo the way it is? I always figured the people who worked at the zoo didn’t care about the animals but after meeting a few of the staff members recently I now know that’s not true. Turns out there are two main reasons why the zoo is a disaster, the first is the zoo visitors and the second is they just don’t have enough money to make it better.

The Visitors
Majority of the people who visit the zoo do not respect the animals nor do they respect any of the rules. On one trip to the zoo during the daytime when it was fairly empty I witnessed three different incidents in a space of 15 minutes that summarizes the problem with the people at the zoo. The first incident took place at the elephant enclosure. We noticed a woman with her young kid had climbed over the fence, through the cactuses all the way to the wall of the elephant enclosure and were taking pictures next to the trunk of the elephant that was sticking out. One of the zoo employees who was with me yelled at the women to get away from the elephant because it was dangerous and the woman just coldly took her time making her way back out over the fence as if she had done nothing wrong. A few meters away on the other corner of the enclosure there was a kid next to his mother with a bag of oranges throwing them at the second elephant. Again the zoo employee had to stop the kid from throwing oranges at the elephant while the mother was pretending she wasn’t noticing any of this.

The third incident occurred just a short distance away at the baboon enclosure. As we arrived we noticed a kid was on top of the fence sticking french fries into the baboon cage trying to feed them. His mother and his sister were standing next to him watching and then the baboon stuck his hand out of the cage and the little boy tried to kick it hard but ended up missing and hitting the cage. The zoo employee I was with yelled at the boy to get down and then pulled the kid down but the kid kept climbing back up wanting to feed the baboons. The employee was telling the kid how dangerous it was since the baboons can bite and scratch people when his mother started shouting at her. She told the employee that no one cares about her kids more than her and if this was dangerous she wouldn’t be letting her kids feed the baboons. I was just standing there going WTF?

Visitors are one of the biggest issues of the zoo. I’ve already posted about how some kids try to kill the animals with slingshots and how the trash people throw into the cages end up killing the animals as well. A lot of kids are uneducated and abusive throwing whatever they can at the animals or in the case above trying to kick them. This is why the zoo tries to protect the animals using chicken wire (a fence with very small openings) around the cages, cactus plants, higher fences and security guards. But even those defenses fail all the time, people still manage to shove food into the cages, they pull down the chicken wire fence and put it on top of the cactuses so they can walk on them towards the cages. Even security guards get ignored and the guards are too afraid to confront the visitors anyway.

No Budget
Now this second issue is the bigger of the two. The zoo has limited financial resources. Although Kuwait is a rich country, the zoo and animals aren’t really a priority. Right now there are two major enclosures for example that need to be changed or fixed but the zoo staff haven’t been able to secure the budget for them.

The first problem is the elephant enclosure. Right now there are two elephants and the enclosure is pretty tiny. The larger of the two elephants has started destroying the walls of the enclosure because of frustration. The zoo submitted a proposal to double the size of the enclosure since there is an empty plot right next to the elephant enclosure but the proposal was rejected. Instead a construction company was brought in to install large metal beams around the elephant enclosure as a solution (pictured above).

The second problem that is in dire need of attention is the chimpanzee cage (pictured above). There are four chimps in one of the most depressing cages I’ve ever seen. They have no entertainment whatsoever inside, it’s just a rectangular dark cage with concrete floors and thats it. But, there’s a great spot in the zoo which the staff want to convert to a chimp enclosure. It’s a large space (see below) that can be planted with trees and greenery and chimps can roam free in it. The plan was proposed but rejected due to budgetary reasons. So now the space is gonna be turned into a reptile enclosure filled with a few crocs and turtles which is going to be a complete waste of space.

So although the staff do want to improve the zoo they just don’t have any money do so. It’s very depressing. Even when it comes to fixing enclosures or purchasing new medical equipment it’s all handled in the same low priority “put a bandaid on it” way.

The Solution
The visitors problem is very difficult to fix. One way would be to increase the prices of the tickets (currently it’s 500fils) in hopes that would stop or lessen the amount of visitors that come to the zoo. Educating the parents and the children is too large a task for the zoo to handle and signs and leaflets really have no effect. The most realistic solution to the people problem is to continue and try to protect the animals (I suggested replacing cactus plants with barbed wire) and hiring Kuwaiti security to replace the current expats.

The solution with the budget should be simpler… just increase the budget, but that’s not happening. A more realistic option we discussed is sponsorship by private companies. Companies could sponsor an animal enclosure and the money would be used to build it or improve it. It’s something that’s done in other zoos around the world and in this situation it would be a great way to solve a lot of the problems.

By the way you’re a company and are interested in doing this, email me for more details [Here]

It’s really sad that the zoo doesn’t have any money to improve the situation for the animals. It’s not only the elephants and the chimps that are in trouble but those two are the priorities right now. The baboon cage for example has around 70 baboons inside and is over crowded. The tiger needs more space, the hippos need a new water filter for their pool and one of the giraffes is limping but they don’t have a portable xray machine to check and see why. They even have one animal enclosure nicknamed Guantanamo because it’s that bad.

The problems with the zoo are major and hopefully I was able to bring it some exposure.

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A day at the Kuwait Camel Race Track

Post by Mark

Yesterday me and some friends headed to the Kuwait Camel Race Club in Kabd. I had never been to a camel race before and when my friend proposed it I figured it would be something exciting to do on a quiet Saturday afternoon. My friend got in contact with a person at the track so when we got there we had a guide waiting for us.


The guide got into the car with us and took us past the security gate into the center of the race track where the camel owners drive alongside their camels during the race. The Kuwait Camel Club no longer use human jockeys but instead use robotic ones due to the controversial child jockey problems faced in the past. During the race the camel owners drive down the track alongside their camels controlling their robot jockeys with wireless controllers. The guide made me tune into 93.1mhz on the FM radio because there was a live broadcast of the actual race so we could follow it that way. You could watch the short video above to get a feel of the view from inside the car. During the start of every race all the cars drive to the starting line where the owners make last checks on their camels. The camels don’t start in front of the spectators stand but 3KM away from the finish line. Once the camels are ready they are lined up and the race begins. The cars drive alongside the camels all the way to the finish line and then the cars drive back to the starting line to check on the other set of camels. We did this maybe five or six times until all the races had been finished and then we drove back to the spectator stands.

There was a black tent near the track where the winner was given his prize. Afterwards we were invited to some dates with camel butter and camel milk. The butter was absolutely delicious and even the milk didn’t taste bad at all, kinda like something between buttermilk and laban.

If you’re interested in visiting the tracks to watch a race it’s very easy to find and do. Take the 6th Ring Road and if 360 Mall is on your right keep heading straight past the Jaber Al-Ahmad International Stadium. Keep driving until you pass the new Kuwait University campus on your left (currently just hills and hills of sand surrounded by hoarding) and then after that in a bit you’ll see a sign for the 604 exit. Once you take the exit stop at the traffic light and then take a left and pass under the bridge. Then keep driving straight until you get to a roundabout, drive straight past that roundabout and keep driving until you get to a second roundabout. Once again pass that roundabout and keep driving until you hit the third roundabout. At the third roundabout go left and then head all the way till the end of the road. Once your read the end go right until you get to the end of the road again and you’ll spot the Kuwait Camel Club on your left. The whole ride shouldn’t take you more than 30 minutes. There is no entrance fee and races are held every Saturday from 2:30pm between October and April. Here is the location on [Google Maps]

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A different take on the zoo

Post by Mark

With all the problems with the Kuwait Zoo we sometimes forget it still can be a nice place to visit. A friend of mine passed by last week and she wrote about it in a much more positive way than I could ever do.

Did you know that the entrance fee is [500 filss] ONLY?! And now that the weather is still breezy & the sun isn’t eating our heads, half a KD will grant you scenery, active animals, great open space, clear skies, and best of all- an adventure to remember.

Her pictures are also really great so check out her post [Here]

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Post by Mark

He’s kissing her because she’s injured. This shot was taken awhile ago at the Kuwait Zoo by a friend of mine who works there. [Link]

Note: I have no idea how I ended up with 3 animal related posts in one day.

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Animal deaths at the zoo

Post by Mark

Kids with slingshots are killing animals at the zoo.
How messed up is that? [Link]

via American Girls World

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