Tunisia was one of the first countries our co-founder Kate Hosali travelled across in the 1920s to treat sick and injured working animals. Today, as Kate did all those years ago, our team visits remote towns and souks to provide free veterinary care for animals in need.
A day in the life
SPANA Tunisia director Dr Sami Mzabi tells us about a recent mobile clinic with the Kebili team.
6am - We arrive early at the centre to check on the inpatients and provide any treatments before the long day ahead. One of our grooms and vet technicians will be taking care of the animals while the team are away, and the mobile clinic van is loaded up with drugs and equipment.
7am - We drive to the Visceri souk, a place that we have visited for many years but can be a challenging clinic for the team to run. We are often overwhelmed by the number of animals needing treatment here and so we have to make sure we’re well organised. Owners can often be quite demanding and want their animals to be treated first, so we have to make sure we’re very diplomatic and calm to keep everyone happy, including the animals. When we arrive a queue of 30 donkeys and horses quickly forms. There are several cases of pinworms as well as dentistry problems. While we treat we talk to owners about the importance of visiting SPANA’s clinic regularly for check-ups, as unfortunately too many still only bring their animals to us when problems have been allowed to develop for some time.
1pm - In the afternoon we pack up and head to a remote village. The vet technician announces our arrival on a loudspeaker and swarms of animals are soon surrounding us to await treatment. We really enjoy helping animals at this clinic; the local community here are very poor and appreciate our service in this desert location. We see many animals with overgrown and deformed feet, and our vet technician is kept busy with farriery for most of the afternoon.
4pm - On the way back to the centre we call in at a camel station to see if anyone needs our help. Camel safaris in the desert are a big tourist attraction here, and although camels are resilient creatures, like all animals even they need veterinary treatment sometimes. It’s lucky that we stop off as we find one camel that has many thorns from palm spines stuck in his leg and the sole of his foot, which must have been causing him agony. It takes time and patience for the team to remove these, and the owner and the camel are very grateful.
5pm - We return to the centre tired but feeling satisfied that we’ve been able to help 70 animals at our clinics today. After the night groom has arrived and we’ve done a last check on the inpatients, we head home.
Sami is one of SPANA’s longest serving staff members, first joining the charity in the 1980s. Five years ago Sami took up the post of country director and is responsible for our veterinary and education programmes, as well as looking after our dedicated 20 staff members there. He told SPANA News what he loves about working for the charity:
“SPANA Tunisia is an incredibly rewarding place to work, not only for me but for the whole team who are all passionate about donkeys, horses, mules and camels. We are all very proud to be able to help improve the lives of sick and injured working animals, which without us might never receive any veterinary care. “I also like that our work directly helps the owners of working animals too, some of the poorest people in Tunisia. Even though our jobs can often be challenging, it is really satisfying to see that we are making a real difference to both animals and people.”
- SPANA started work in Tunisia in 1925, when SPANA co-founder Kate Hosali travelled across the country to provide free veterinary care for working animals. Last year, our dedicated team treated just over 22,000 working animals.
- Three veterinary centres based in Bou Salem, Kasserine and Kebili
- Three mobile clinics visiting animals in souks and rural areas
- To help improve the conditions of animals used in the Tunisian tourism industry, we are setting up a carriage horse licensing scheme in the town of Tozeur this year.
- Our education work currently consists of a network of animal clubs in schools and our hands-on exhibition installed in an interactive education bus, which tours the country
- Work began on a new mobile exhibition unit to bring engaging, interactive displays and information to schoolchildren across the country.
- 13,503 pupil visits to education centres in the past year
Tunisia at a glance
- Population: 10.9 million
- Area: 164,150 sq km
- Location: North Africa
- Capital city: Tunis
- Estimated working animal population: 652,000