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HMP Ambassador: Dr. Gim Geok Ng

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Dr. Ng, a Singapore-based veterinarian, has worked with rhinos and big cats in Africa, but it’s always been her dream to help protect the Himalaya.

The Himalayan Dream

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It has always been a dream of mine to visit the Himalayas. As soon as I began climbing as a teenager, I started to dream of going to the legendary mountains in the Himalayas. I have been trekking in the high alpine since 2006, when I went to New Zealand to pursue veterinary science. Mountains teach us to respect Mother Nature, and how we need to be prepared for everything.

I’m extremely fascinated by Himalayan wildlife; from beautifully coloured Himalayan Monals, to Bengal tigers, Indian rhinoceros, red pandas and, my personal favourite, snow leopards.

I absolutely love snow leopards. Their thick coat makes them appear soft and cuddly but at the same time they are such powerful and efficient hunters. Snow leopards are known to be extremely elusive, and scientists can spend a very long time looking for them. I like the mysteriousness of that.

1930253_25314826454_6062_nDogs as pests

Although dog/wildlife conflict is relatively unheard of, it is certainly not rare. People are always quick to point out that cats kill wildlife, especially birds, but they also do not realise that stray dogs are also capable of killing wildlife. It is also known that ecosystems are vulnerable when faced with non-native predators like dogs. In the 1980s, researchers found that a single German Shepherd loose in New Zealand’s Waitangi State Forest was responsible for killing up to 500 kiwis. Imagine what might happen if that dog had reproduced? Invasive species like dogs can also upset the delicate balance in the ecosystem by occupying or taking over certain niches.

Dogs can potentially carry deadly diseases that can infect wildlife they come in contact with. Diseases can also spread from the wildlife to the dogs, and when the dogs wander into where people live to look for food, the disease they carry may also potentially spread to the humans that come in contact with the dogs.

Rabies is a viral disease that affects wild and domestic animals, and is spread to people in close contact with them. They are the source of the vast majority of human rabies deaths. Once the symptoms develop in people, rabies is nearly always fatal. This disease is neglected in poor and vulnerable populations, where measures prevent dog to human transmission have not been implemented. It is therefore very important to educate people in the rural communities about the dangers of rabies and how to mitigate the risks. Rabies also infect a huge range of animals, and if it is not controlled, it can potentially wipe out large populations of animals.

Benefits of Animal Birth Control

Capture, neuter and release programs, like those carried out by the Himalayan Mutt Project, aim to stabilise the street dog population and control the transmission of rabies. Return of sterilised dogs to their home territories prevent a “vacuum effect” of attracting new, unsterilised and potentially diseased dogs to unoccupied territories. These programs reduce the number of puppies in the population, who are at greatest risk of transmitting rabies, other diseases and worms.

Repeated pregnancies in dogs can physically stress them, increase risk of predation, and reduce food supply.

Free-roaming dogs in developing countries suffer extremely poor welfare due to the lack of access to veterinary care. They suffer constantly from malnutrition, parasitism, starvation and dehydration. Puppies are especially susceptible to diseases due to their underdeveloped immune systems.

By limiting the number of free-roaming dogs, there is also less competition between them for resources.

“I support the Himalayan Mutt Project because I love animals and I love the mountains. Although every effort to bring change may seem small, I believe that through time we can create a big difference.”

IMG_3916Being the Change

By stabilising the dog population and vaccinating them, we can lessen the ability of free-roaming dogs to reproduce and spread diseases to the people and wildlife.

We all have a part to play with respect to the environment, no matter how small the act. If I can contribute to the wildlife and environment, it is best that I use my abilities as a veterinarian to do so. The world is increasingly being urbanised and populated, I would love to be able to help in protecting one of the last few wild places on Earth.

The Himalayan Mutt Project has done very well in bringing awareness to the dog population inside and outside of Nepal, given its humble beginnings. It is also amazing that they are able to sterilise so many animals within a few short days, in so many towns, in addition to the difficulties faced in alpine conditions.

The Himalayan Mutt Project is raising funds for our 2017 neutering and anti-rabies vaccination camp in Nepal Himalaya. DONATE today

Campaign for 2015

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As much as we’d like it, change doesn’t happen overnight. We are determined, but need your continued support. Here is your opportunity to participate in our efforts.

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HMP Ambassador: Kelvin Chen

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Kelvin shares our belief that controlling the dog population is necessary to help preserve the Himalayan environment, especially if dogs are impacting the ecology of native wildlife.

Kelvin Chen started backpacking in the early 80’s and made his first visit to Kathmandu in 1987 during his university holidays. He shares, “I made the trip on my own and trekked solo to Annapurna Base Camp, as well as did a 3-day rafting trip.”

“After my month-long trekking/rafting trip in 1987, I was captivated and knew I had return. On that trip, I experienced great Himalayan hospitality and made friends from all over world, many of which I am still in touch with today.”

1998 Milke Danda & Koshi Tappu (7)

Kelvin returned to Nepal five more times and eventually founded an adventure travel company with which he has led both trekking and nature tours. Of his subsequent trips to Nepal, Kelvin says he was raptured by the “sheer wilderness and unpredictability” of the landscape.

As a Himalayan Mutt Project Ambassador, this is not the first time Kelvin is giving back to Nepal. In 2000, Kelvin was one of the leaders of a Nepal Community Project that helped build a school and equip a village in Pokhara District. His team raised funds, collected donations and took Nepali lessons from a Gurkha soldier.

2001 Tibet Everest (23)

Along his treks, Kelvin has encountered many exotic Himalayan wildlife, mainly birds like buzzards, vultures, hoopoes (above photo), as well as pika, a small alpine relative of the rabbit. Appreciating nature, Kelvin believes, “is beneficial to my, and everyone’s soul.”

When we spoke to Kelvin about mutts he had noticed during his treks, he admits, “mutts are not a species which come to mind during treks. Rather it is goats, donkeys, yaks, chickens, sheep etc.” Mutts tend to fall into our periphery when trekking in the Himalaya. Simply because there are so many of them that we fail to take notice. “Hence I was surprised, when looking back at my photo albums, to have found more than one picture of a mutt.”

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Through his treks in the Himalaya, Kelvin learned that many large breeds, like Tibetan Mastiffs, are kept as guard dogs. “They can give you a shock when they suddenly rush at you, and you just hope their steel chain does not break.”

That being said of dogs with owners, Kelvin notes that, “strays can be a danger if they are hungry, injured or behaving in a pack. Humans have to be responsible for dogs; we domesticated them for our own needs, so we need to manage them.”

“We need to be responsible for our effect on the earth. If it is somewhere we like to visit, all the more we have to give back to what the place has given to us. We should not merely be tourists exploiting a less-developed nation.”

Why does Kelvin Chen support the Himalayan Mutt Project?

“Easy. Because I love the Himalaya and mutts. And if dogs, which are domesticated by humans, are affecting the fragile environment, then humans have to be responsible. All the more if there is something we can do or if it’s within our control.

I think the Himalayan Mutt Project is very commendable for what it is trying to do and has done given its resources. Both mountains and dogs bring a smile and sense of peace to humans so we should look after both.”

The Himalayan Mutt Project is raising funds for our 2017 neutering and anti-rabies vaccination camp in Nepal Himalaya. DONATE today

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Our Second Fundraiser

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Our first camp is over but we have begun planning for 2015. We launch our second campaign to make sure we have all the funds we need to keep doing our work for the Himalaya.

Our fund raising campaign held between Feb-Apr 2014 raised only SG$7,700 of the US$11,000 we needed to make this camp happen. We reached into our personal funds to make up for the shortfall. We’ve no regrets and were still thoroughly thrilled with the outcome. We are glad we pushed ahead and succeeded! One of the reasons we didn’t manage to raise as much funds as we needed, was because of time. We wanted to get started as soon as possible because the villagers were ready for it, and we only have a short window every year to carry out such an expedition as harsh monsoon and winters meant it would be inconvenient if not impossible to make such a journey any other time of the year.

It was incredible that we managed to raise a bulk of the money in a mere four months! We are grateful to all our backers for supporting our work and believing in us. We don’t want our work to be impaired by a lack of funds, that is why we are getting a head start this year and preparing for 2015 a good year in advance!

Our present campaign runs until 31 July 2014. The funds raised from this campaign will help us offset the costs from 2014, as well as help us prepare us to return to Manang District in Nepal Himalaya in 2015. Our plan is to neuter and vaccinate an estimated 200 dogs in Manang district. A sustained effort is what will make a difference for the dogs and communities.

The Himalayan Mutt Project is raising funds for our 2017 neutering and anti-rabies vaccination camp in Nepal Himalaya. DONATE today

HMP Ambassador: Edwin Siew

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The Himalayan Mutt Project is thrilled to have the support of Professional Mountaineer Edwin Siew, who was the first Singaporean to summit Everest, and who continues his exploration of the Himalaya today! With over a decade of experience in the Himalaya, Edwin Siew tells us why he thinks the Himalaya needs our help.

The Himalayan Mutt Project is raising funds for our 2017 neutering and anti-rabies vaccination camp in Nepal Himalaya. DONATE today

Campaign VIDEO Launch

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Journey into the Himalaya with us and witness the crucial and historic efforts we are doing for dogs and people of Nepal’s mountain communities.

Our campaign video for 2015 invites you to meet the faces of our wonderful communities we have had the privilege to work with. Without their support and welcome, we would not have been able to achieve this momentous journey. Meet the special mutts of this incredible landscape, and have a peek into the mysterious wildlife that can be found in this very special land. We want you to see what you helped us achieve in 2014, and kick start our second crowd funding campaign for phase two of this journey.

HMP LIVE on 938FM

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Himalayan Mutt Project co-founder, Debby Ng, spent Sunday morning with Keith de Souza at Singapore’s MediaCorp 938LIVE Studios, to help drum up support for our second crowd funding campaign that aims to raise funds for our 2015 effort!

We shared with listeners why the welfare of dogs and humans in Nepal’s Himalaya community are threatened by dog over population, and how they are simple and effective strategies we are undertaking to help make life a little better in Nepal’s mountains.

Keith, a dog lover and owner himself, asked about rabies and how it threatens communities. Singapore is one of a few rabies-free countries in the world and it was good to have been able to educate listeners about the disease, why it is dangerous, and how we are so privileged to interact with our dogs, without fear of getting ill. Hopefully, this same peace of mind is something we can create for Himalayan communities as well.

We also spoke about the challenges of working the Himalayan landscape where villages are scattered across a vast expanse. The Himalayan Mutt Project is in a unique position to facilitate such veterinary field camps because of our extensive network and connections with communities in Nepal Himalaya. This field knowledge and community access is one of the many challenges that keeps other animal protection organisations from reaching into the high Himalaya, and we are so thrilled to have been able to share this incredible achievement with Keith and his listeners!