One of interesting places I visited in Kenya is the beautiful and ancient town and island of Lamu. Lamu is an island not far from main land off the coast of north-east Kenya. The old city is inscribed on the World Heritage List as “the oldest and best-preserved Swahili settlements in East Africa”. Up until 1907 Lamu was the hub of all Arabian trading including the slave trade, adding to its fascinating history. Today its narrow streets weave through elegant Swahili architecture, full of charm and character. Since there are no cars on the island the alleys are constantly full of children playing, Muslim men chatting over chia, and CATS! The old town has a very dense population of street cats. Since it is a port town, fishing is big business here and there are lots of scraps for the kitties, therefore they continue to reproduce and quickly.
While in Lamu I had the opportunity to spend time with the dedicated people from the Lamu Animal Welfare Clinic. This grass roots organization conducts an ABC (animal birth control) program for the stray cats that fill the island.
I was impressed with the determination of this organization to continue their work in spite of the opposition from many locals. Much of the Muslim community of Lamu does not generally support sterilization of any kind and many would rather see the cats killed.
There is clearly an over population of cats on the island of Lamu and this organization is working to avoid a cruel and wasteful cull. We don’t always realize that stray animals exist as a result of other problems that occur in the community, such as inadequate waste disposal. Stray cats tend to populate areas where there is a lot of trash/scraps available. Cats also play a vital role in keeping the rat populations in check, and the diseases that often come with an over population of rats.
The caring people at Lamu Animal Welfare Clinic are often faced with hostility from the community over their work. Despite all financial and community challenges this NGO continues to devote their lives to helping these beautiful cats.
At the time of my visit there also happened to be 2 visiting vets so the organization took advantage of their visitors by holding a spay/neuter blitz. Over the span of 3 days we managed to catch, sterilize, treat and release 220 cats. The cats which fill the streets of this enchanting Africa island live in close proximately to people because they rely on human scraps for food, but they are in no way domesticated. They are all wild, extremely clever and quick. Catching them was a challenge and that took all the smarts we had and a lot of patience.
It was an exciting and rewarding few days of covertly snatching feral cats while attempting to keep out of sight of too many local people. Although we didn’t receive many thank yous from the jungley felines, it was extremely rewarding to release the sterilized cats back into their home on the streets knowing that they now had a better chance at long healthy lives, with no more babies on the way.
For even more viewing pleasure click on the link below to watch a short video from the streets of Lamu including some of the photos seen here and a few more. Special thanks to the wonderful Patrick Murphy for creating this “catchy” video of our time at the Lamu Animal Welfare Clinic.SHARE