Silk island, known more formally as Koh Dach, is an island untouched by time. Nestled in the Mekong River, the island is an hour’s drive from Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Despite its proximity, its worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The island is undeveloped, consisting of small villages, rice fields, and Buddhist temples.
Up to 1,000 cats and dogs call the island home. Most are free-roaming, with many living either on the streets or at temples where the monks provide them with food. Sadly, there is no veterinarian on the island or other animal care services. This means that every animal on the island is unvaccinated, unsterilised, and many suffer from chronic, untreated illnesses.
But there is hope. Pet owners on Silk Island love their animals very much, and luckily there is no dog meat trade on the island, unlike in neighboring provinces. FOUR PAWS is committed to improving animal welfare in the Kingdom of Cambodia, and keeping the island dog meat-free. In February 2020, FOUR PAWS launched an island-wide mission with our local partner Animal Rescue Cambodia.
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DAY 1-4 | The first four days of the mission have been extremely successful: together with Animal Rescue Cambodia we set up camp at a pagoda and treated 220 dogs and cats living in the area. Unfortunately, we also came across some dogs with large tumours that needed chemotherapy. Two others were emergency cases that had to be brought of the island for further treatment: one was suffering from acute paralysis, the other had an extremely distended abdomen filled with fluid. Before we started out, our community engagement team went door to door explaining people what we were about to do. As a result, many locals brought their pets over to us. Unfortunately, many animals living on Silk Island are in a pretty bad shape.
DAY 5 | Today we are moving our mobile clinic to another pagoda - follow our stories to be a part of this mission! Join our live-video for a tour through our mobile clinic with Matt Backhouse from our SAC Southeast Asia team and the head of SAC Southeast Asia Dr. Katherine Polak.
We are quiet happy with the results from today - we treated 56 animals, together with our friends from Animal Rescue Cambodia. Our team worked from early morning until late in the evening despite the extreme heat.As we are moving around the island to collect cats and dogs, we get first hand experiences of how much the locals care for their pets. One woman has taken in 13 dogs which she has to feed every day. Most of the inhabitants are farmers and live off what the island gives them so providing food for 13 hungry mouths every day is quite the challenge. While there haven't been any cases of dogs getting stolen for the dog meat trade, the woman still insists on all 13 dogs sleeping upstairs with her, so they don't get taken at night.
UPDATE | Goh is one of many dogs living on Silk Island. Unfortunately she was treated with a human medication which led to hair loss and other rather severe health problems. As you can see, she is not in a good condition - and to make things worse, the poor girl is also blind and constantly running against obstacles. We took care of Goh, bathed and cleaned her and treated her wounds and infections.
She is now back living with her owner who was very happy to see her with her actual fur color. While she still needs a lot of help, things have clearly changed for the better.
UPDATE | Two weeks ago we introduced you to Sor, who is one of many dogs living on Silk Island. This after photo seems to be a different dog - even his fur color changed after a thorough bath! Sor suffered from horrendous matting, mange, and tick infestion. He also had a terrible smell from living outside, having a thick matted coat in the humid Cambodian climate, and never having been bathed in his entire life. He still has a long way to go in regards to treatment for his skin infections, but the change in only a few short days is remarkable! It took over two hours with four people working to shave and clip his incredibly matted fur and dreadlocks while he was under anaesthesia. Now he's a handsome boy again. The transformation of sweet Sor has been amazing. He enjoys lots of cuddles, and has much more energy already.
AFTER 8 DAYS | Mission accomplished! Over the course of 8 days, a team from FOUR PAWS and local partner Animal Rescue Cambodia visited Silk Island to provide care to the hundreds of animals that call the island home. This is the first time that medical care has ever reached this particular island, so all animals were sterilized, unvaccinated, and many sick.
Over the course of the project, a total of 765 vaccinations were administered, 344 spay/neuter procedures were performed. 16 animals with severe or chronic illness received lifesaving care including chemotherapy, tumor removal, or were transported to the city of Phnom Penh for advanced, emergency treatment. Our Community Engagement department supported the SAC mission on the island with 6 community outreach and children education sessions at 2 pagodas.
UPDATE | Ginou, who suffered from an extremely enlarged abdomen that was filled with fluid. He had difficulty breathing because there was so much fluid in his abdomen, compressing her chest and lungs. The owner was worried sick about his beloved pet and, out of desperation, gave him human deworming tablets, in the hope that it would decrease the size of the abdomen.We had to take him off the island immediately as we didn't have the necessary equipment to treat him at our mobile clinic. Unfortunately our suspicion is that Ginou might have a tumor and will need surgery. Ginou is a really sweet boy and we are all in love with him - please keep your fingers crossed it’s not as serious as we think!By taking care of the animals on Silk Island we try to combat the dog meat industry through which stray dogs are taken from the street. Please sign our petition!
Our goals are to
- Provide lifesaving care to animals on the entire island
- Successfully spay/neuter and vaccinate at least 500 animals
- Conduct education sessions to educate hundreds of students on animal care
- Establish relationship with temples, monks, and the public to provide ongoing services to the island
- Keep Silk Island dog meat-free
"Sor" in Khmer means the color white, but he was anything but. Our team found Sor in a really bad condition: extremely matted, suffering from overgrown nails, skin and eye infections, and open wounds. The first time we met this poor pup, his eyes were so infected and crusted that he could barely open them. Some members of the community told us that he was a ‘naughty dog’, which is why he has never been groomed or bathed. We watched him spending his days lying on the road in the hot sun, covered in flies landing on his wounds. Sor needed help immediately.
Ginou was extremely infested with ticks, and suffered from a severely enlarged abdomen, filled with fluid. We suspect he was in severe heart failure due to a heavy infection with heartworms. Without knowing what was causing the swelling of the belly, Ginou’s owner frequently tried to treat him with human deworming tablets, which failed to help him. When our team met the pup, he was having difficulty breathing because of all the fluid in his abdomen. We knew he would need serious medical attention and fast.
Goh’s owner reported to us that she had 4 litters of puppies in the past, with the last litter consisting of 10 puppies! Her owner simply couldn’t afford to feed any more puppies, and decided to inject Goh with a human birth control product, in a misguided attempt to stop her from having any more puppies. Obviously, such products are not designed for dogs, and the infections made poor Goh extremely ill. Her fur fell out, skin became thickened, and she developed a potbelly appearance. She also has a large wound on her abdomen that is often covered in flies. The owner of Goh is desperate for medical care for her and her other dogs.
Sadly, dog Lucky is very unlucky. She has swollen, sore eyes and severe scabies infection. If this is not enough – she has several large mammary tumors, that are potentially cancerous. She suffers in the unrelenting heat, itchy and uncomfortable. Her owner reports wanting to get Lucky the treatment she needs, but hasn’t been able to given the lack of a veterinarian on the island.
Our work in Southeast Asia
As a part of our Stray Animal Care program, we have teamed up with local charity, Animal Rescue Cambodia, to help improve the dire situation for stray cats and dogs in the capital city of Phnom Penh. Read more about our work here.
We also want to stop the cruel dog and cat meat trade in Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Read more about our campaign here: www.dogcatmeat.four-paws.org