Meet Dr. James Ngatia, Veterinarian for the Samburu-Laikipia Wild Dog Project

Tell us about your background.

I studied veterinary medicine at the University of Nairobi and am a resident of Laikipia county. I grew up watching wildlife and this formed part of my inspiration for working with wildlife or wildlife research, and community development thus influencing my choice of career in Veterinary Sciences. When I discovered the LRVC project based at Mpala in 2017-2018, I saw it as a perfect avenue to support my own county while also growing my professional journey.

What projects are you currently working on at Mpala? What are your research goals?

I am currently employed as a veterinary officer with the Samburu-Laikipia Wild Dog Project. In this role, I also serve as the coordinator for the Laikipia Rabies Vaccination Campaign. Our campaign involves conducting large-scale mass vaccinations for domestic dogs and cats to prevent rabies. Additionally, we engage in community education programs that cover topics such as dog health, rabies awareness and prevention, animal welfare for dogs and cats, and fostering peaceful coexistence with wildlife, particularly the endangered African Wild Dog. Furthermore, we actively monitor the health of Wild Dogs and report any issues to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) Veterinary Response Team. Our efforts primarily focus on Laikipia County, with extensions into certain neighbouring areas within Isiolo and Samburu counties.

Why Mpala?

The two most exciting things at Mpala are the times when volunteers converge at the campus to help with the intensive vaccination campaign. It is incredible to see the dedication of professionals, students, and Mpala researchers in giving back to communities in Laikipia. Additionally, another source of excitement arises from tracking African Wild Dogs through the bushes and rocky terrain for monitoring or the occasional collaring events.

What impact do you believe your time at Mpala will have on your professional career?

My time at Mpala will definitely be a period of immense learning and growth in the areas of community support, research, and veterinary wildlife science, especially supporting endangered wildlife. It is an honour to be part of the global efforts to reduce the burden of rabies and effectively contribute to rabies awareness and eventually elimination. Very few places in Kenya will offer this kind of combination and hands-on experience. Working with the Samburu-Laikipia Wild Dog Research Project led by Dedan Ngatia, Professor Rosie Woodroffe, and Martin Mwangi, we are learning a great deal about conservation, and these skills will be beneficial in conservation and ecological spaces in Kenya, across Africa, and globally. It is incredibly amazing the level of expertise and knowledge that Mpala researchers have on a relatively small campus in the middle of Laikipia, and it is a privilege to be able to interact and learn from each project and individual investigators.

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