A Soul-Enriching Trip to the Galapagos Islands

Recently, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in a project with the nonprofit organization, World Vets, in the pristine and remote Galapagos Island of San Cristobal, where I assisted as one of the veterinarians amongst an amazing team of 18 volunteers.

By Genna Mize, DVM
Consulting and Reporting Veterinarian

After a transformative experience working with World Vets in Albania in 2015, I was thrilled for the chance to take part in another project in a different and distant part of the world.  

World Vets improves the quality of life for animals globally by providing veterinary services to underserved areas of the world. The projects in the Galapagos are particularly unique and important for the vibrant local community, resident dogs and cats, and wildlife. The work here, in cooperation with the local government and other organizations, not only provides essential veterinary care and sterilization (spay/neuter) services to the community’s beloved dogs and cats but therein supports the protection of the delicate biodiversity of the Galapagos Islands.  Interestingly, dogs and cats are considered invasive species on this archipelago and are a direct threat to the conservation of the species, so population control and medical care are critical.

The clinic days were long but days go by quickly when you’re diligently working (and sweating!) for such a noble cause - one discovers aching muscles they didn’t know existed! I was awestruck to experience a group of strangers come together with their unique skills and work so cohesively and productively, particularly in an environment with limited resources, far different than what we are acclimated to at home.  My responsibility was primarily providing medical care and, with the help of a very talented translator, we treated 97 pets and the team performed 155 sterilization surgeries for a total of 252 patients!

And we had our fun outside the clinic too - excursions that involved swimming with sea turtles and sea lions (one of them stole my teammate's flipper!). Marveling at the miraculous birds - blue-footed boobies feet are really THAT blue! Learning about the conservation of the giant tortoises firsthand by observing them from a few weeks to 80 years of age. Although they’re somewhat loud, lounging on the beach with the sea lions was relaxing - a few would even join us for post-clinic cocktails at the local beach bar, lying just beneath our chairs!  Somehow I worked up the courage to SCUBA dive Kicker Rock and found myself swimming with hammerheads and then into a school of fish so dense I thought I was swimming into a cave!  

What an honor to be part of such an amazing mission in a magical place and well worth the two-day journey, each way, to get there. The stunning landscapes, the lovely people, and the enchanting animals (both domestic and non-domestic) make the Galapagos an extraordinary place, enriching the soul. World Vets allowed for an engagement and connection with the community one can only dream of. A special thank you to our own  Dr .Teresa Koebke, Dr. Lauren Johnson, and Dr. Ryan Reynolds for their support in picking up some of my daily duties while I was out of the office - and Virbac for allowing us time to experience that which leaves such an indelible mark on life. 

To learn more, donate or get involved, check out http://worldvets.org.