British vets help fight “sleeping sickness” in The Gambia

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Two British vets are boosting efforts to research the deadly disease “sleeping sickness” - which is rife among horses and donkeys in The Gambia.

Trypanosomiasis is a parasitic disease, spread by tsetse flies, and attacks the nervous system.

Patrick Sells and Laura Heaps set off from the UK on 25 October to drive 5,000 miles to the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust (GHDT) in Sambel Kunda.

The fundraising trip delivered a Mazda twin cab pick-up and vital veterinary medicines to the remote vet centre.

But Pat and Laura also brought home important samples of the potentially fatal disease to help scientists at Glasgow University continue their research.

“The local people take a pride in their animals and they seem to be in good condition generally but the biggest problems are infectious disease, particularly this wasting disease,” said Laura.

“It saps all the animal’s energy which is bad news in a working animal. A lot of our work at the GHDT involved getting the donkeys back into a fit state to return to work.”

As the couple drove down through Africa they stopped off at an inner city vet clinic – the American Fondouk – in Fez, Morocco.

While volunteering there for a week they saw harness injuries and trauma caused to horses, mules and donkeys by being worked in proximity with road traffic.

They also dropped off vet equipment and drugs at that clinic before travelling on, to reach Sambel Kunda on 17 November.

And after a month in the Gambia they returned to the UK on 22 December.

Laura and Pat hope to raise £10,000 for the GHDT through their trip – their total currently stands at just over £9,000.

To donate, go to www.justgiving.com/gambiaroadtrip

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Originally published on horseandhound.co.uk