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Dr Michael Baer: Animal health and welfare

Wednesday 29 March 2023 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion, Pet Talk


Dr Michael Baer: Animal health and welfare
Dr Michael Baer is the main vet at Te Are Manu. Photo: Sian Solomon/22051332

From March 13 and 17 our team from Te Are Manu and the SPCA were in Mitiaro for the second leg of our Southern Pa Enua project.

The project began in February, in Mangaia, and will continue in May in Mauke.  But March was Mitiaro. What a place!

Before I tell you about what we did, I want to express our gratitude to everyone who made the visit possible and such a success. The community and Island Council of Mitiaro made the visit happen, and the help we received was essential. Vivian Taia and her family, especially her daughter Matangaro, were amazing hosts.

Air Rarotonga assisted greatly with flights and freight, we try to travel light, but cat cages and surgical instruments don’t make it easy.  And the New Zealand High Commission. The grant we received from the High Comm is why we can offer our service to the Pa Enua.

On a personal note, I have to thank the team from Te Are Manu and the SPCA.  Sarah and Mata Nooroa and Natalie Henderson run around cleaning up behind and organising in front of me, while I get to potter away.  Back in Rarotonga our brilliant staff member Pip Henderson and volunteer vet Graeme from Vets Beyond Borders kept the home fires burning.

The plan for all our Pa Enua work is the same. Improve animal health and welfare, and thereby have a positive influence on the community. A big part of that work is desexing pets, 45 cats and one dog in Mitiaro, but advice and deworming for livestock is just as important. So, it was great to speak with a lot of livestock owners and deworm 50 odd pigs and 15 goats. And we aim to continue to provide our services as regularly as the Island needs us. We believe this was the first time a vet clinic had visited Mitiaro in over 20 years. That is a long time, and it may be longer, no one was sure if or when a vet had ever visited. It won’t be 20 years before we return.

Animal health and welfare are important to communities because we live with our animals. Healthy pets make much better housemates than pets with fleas and worms, or pets that are constantly birthing unwanted litters of kittens. The stress of repeated pregnancies leads to stunted animals that succumb to every bug that passes through. The same is true of livestock. Only healthy, wholesome animals will produce healthy, wholesome food. And then there are the zoonoses, diseases harboured or suffered by animals that also infect humans. The flea tapeworm is one example, often infecting children. There are more serious examples, such as enteric disease caused by Salmonella or E coli. We are indeed fortunate that in the Cook Islands we don’t have many of the more serious zoonotic diseases. 

Mitiaro. What a place. We try to have as good a look around the islands as we can, because they are beautiful. Mitiaro is no exception. The cave at Vai Nauri and Vai Tamaroa, and Vai Marere. The lake. Swimming in the harbour. Fishing. Relaxing after work with a bonfire at the beach. All of that was amazing. But the best bit was being able to be there and do our jobs. For which we are so very grateful.