DB vet Dr Ivy Cheung tells Carlos Magno of her mission to control the animal population on Malapascua Island in the Philippines.
Hong Kong-born Dr Ivy Cheung of Island Veterinary Services in DB decided on her career path early – at secondary school in Melbourne, Australia. Her first pet, at age 15, was a miniature Schnauzer called Tequila, and she currently shares her DB home with a three-yearold Devon Rex named Qooley.
“Pets make you happy. They can sense if something’s not right and comfort you. It’s like a companionship,” says Ivy, who graduated from the University of Melbourne in 2009 and worked at The Ark Veterinary Hospital in Sai Ying Pun before moving to DB in 2015.
Ivy is full of praise for the DB community’s love of animals and the way we take care of our pets. She has relied on this in setting up Malapascua Animal Welfare (MAW), with hopes to establish a free desexing and treatment initiative for the cats and dogs of Malapascua Island in the Philippine province of Cebu.
Mission in the south
Ivy’s mission began in December 2015 during a dive trip to Malapascua, when she saw the islanders still recovering from the devastation caused two years previously by Typhoon Haiyan. One of the things that struck Ivy on her trip was the number of cats and dogs roaming freely on the island.
“I saw all the little puppies and kittens running around, and I asked offhandedly whether there was a vet on the island,” Ivy recalls. “There was obviously a problem with overpopulation and I wondered if the locals were open to having the animals desexed.”
Ivy soon discovered that unlike many South East Asians, Filipinos are open to the idea of neutering animals. The problem on Malapascua is that there is no resident vet. Volunteer veterinarians make a weekend desexing trip to Malapascua from the capital, 116 kilometres away, every six to 12 months, but their valiant efforts fall short of truly effective population control.
“One effort desexing the strays every six to 12 months will not be able to curb the population as it matures,” Ivy explains. “In that time many of the young animals have already reached sexual maturity and may have already reproduced. Additionally, the volunteer vets only have a limited timeframe – 24 hours is simply not long enough to track down and neuter all the animals.”
On her return to DB in January, Ivy launched MAW, an information and fundraising campaign, to muster volunteers and resources for a free desexing and treatment initiative, out of Hong Kong. The mission also plans to offer prophylactic medicines that are not readily available on the island.
With over HK$60,000 raised to date, Ivy plans to make her first working trip to Malapascua in December with fellow vets Dr Kylie Griffin, Dr Gary Lo and Dr Valeria Leung and nurses Louie Sham and Nicole Cheng. “We can help these people who are trying to do right by their pets but just don’t have the means,” she says. “It has not been difficult getting veterinary volunteers but we are short on lay staff. We will also need sponsorships for the medication, vaccinations and equipment.”
Ivy and her team are paying for their own flights and accommodation, and she concludes simply: “There’s a satisfaction in being able to help the animals, in making them feel better.”