Gili Island Veterinary Aid Visit 2019

In this story, Drs Charlie El-Hage and Dr Peta Hitchens share their experience providing veterinary care and veterinary training on the Gili Islands and Lombok, Indonesia.

We recently returned from a successful visit to the Gili Islands, part of a regular mission to provide care for the hard-working Gili Island ponies and international training for University of Melbourne students.

Animal Aid Abroad, an Australia-based charity, coordinated the visit in conjunction with the Gili Eco Trust and Horses of Gili through the work of equine dental veterinarian Dr Kirsten Weber and the wonderfully generous support of numerous local and Australian businesses.

Part of the team enjoying a respite from the hard work. Left to right: Dr Grace Clifford, Clare Condos, Jamie-Lee Atherton, Josie Townsend, Dr Peta Hitchens, Amanda Drought, and Dr Charlie El-Hage.

As cars and motorcycles are banned on the Gili Islands, these ponies provide the main source of transport aside from walking and cycling, including for transporting goods.

Their welfare has regularly been of great concern to many visitors, but during the years that our team has been visiting, there have been demonstrable improvements in many welfare aspects of these plucky ponies.

Epidemiologist Dr Peta Hitchens.Photo: Anggara Mahendra for Love Heal Animals.

We accompanied final-year Doctor of Veterinary Medicine students Clare Condos and Josie Townsend, two students from Murdoch University, five other veterinarians and two farriers. We were delighted to have three Indonesian veterinarians on the team.

During the week, horses were administered general health procedures including worming, dentistry, first aid, and gelding. We conducted 52 health assessments, shoed or trimmed 25 horses, conducted 15 dental checks and floats and provided 14 horses with new gear including harness padding, bit, bridle, halter and lead rope, or boots.

One of the most valuable parts of the trip was the increased time spent training the veterinary students, local veterinarians, and local farriers. This will help the Gili Islands to become more self-sustaining into the future.

The following week a new team conducted equine clinics on Gili Trawangan, Gili Air, Gili Meno and Lombok.

Dr El-Hage headed to nearby Lombok to work with veterinarians from University of West Nusa Tengarra to provide assistance with dogs in Kuta Lombok, and organising future visits by veterinary students and staff from the University of Melbourne and other Australian universities. This followed a prior meeting with Dr Bagus from Bali Animal Welfare Association to organise similar work.

Dr Charlie El-Hage talks to Indonesian veterinarian Dr Peni and Murdoch University veterinary students.Photo: Anggara Mahendra for Love Heal Animals.

Thank you to these hard-working and dedicated people who are helping to make a huge difference to the working equines of Gili, and we’re hoping to further support and to build stronger relations with our colleagues in that part of the world!

Generous support for this veterinary aid trip was provided by: Dr Kirsten Weber Equine Dental VetU-Vet Werribee Animal Hospital, farriers Christopher Beggs of Kelvin Grove Equine and Kevin Hoke, equine dental vet Dr Grace Clifford, Provet Victoria, Randlab, SutureGlide, Interpath Boehringer Ingelheim, Troy Laboratories Australia and many local organisations including Gili Eco Trust, Blue Water Express, Trawangan Dive, Lutwala Dive and many others.

If you would like to support future veterinary student trips and activities like this, please contact Friends of the U-Vet Hospital.

Banner image: Clare Condos holds a horse while veterinarian Dr Grace Clifford conducts a dental check. Photos by Anggara Mahendra for Love Heal Animals; story by Dr Charlie El-Hage and Dr Peta Hitchens.