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Animal Balance Galápagos

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Animal Balance's History on the Galapagos

Animal Balance has been working on the Galapagos Islands since our inception in 2004. Our first clinic was in 2004 at the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center on Isabela Island. Our first dog patient was Luna, who then went on to live for over 15 years, she was one of the first 'old dogs' on the island as prior to receiving veterinary care most dogs lived very short lives.

 

Luna belonged to a family whose Dad worked for the park service. His wife Sara, still runs the coffee shop on Isabela. Dr. Julie Levy, CVT Liz Peach, and Animal Balance's Founder and Director, Emma Clifford, put the first clinic together from scratch. The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society kindly took all of our equipment and supplies down to the island on one of their giant boats - their arrival was quite the sight to see! Nothing like this had ever been done before! 

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In the early years we worked with a local coalition called CIMEI. We trained local team members and international volunteers alike, providing multiple spay/neuter clinics each year for seven years. 

 

In 2010, a new organization called ABG (Agencia de Bioseguridad Galapagos, a Division of the Dept of Environment of the country of Ecuador) was created and took over the cat/dog management and became AB's partner. We reduced the number of Animal Balance clinics, and trained ABG to host their own clinics. 

 

When we started we were the only organization providing any veterinary care on the islands, but now there are several private practice clinics on Santa Cruz, and one nonprofit organization called Galapagos Doctors, funded by World Veterinary Services. In 2022 World Vets opened a clinic on San Cristobal with guidance from Animal Balance. ABG and Animal Balance provide the cat/dog population control and oversight of both programs. Together we provide an average of 1,200 spay/neuter surgeries for dogs and cats on the islands of Santa Cruz and Isabela each year. 

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In March of 2022, Animal Balance officially opened the Sterilization Center for dogs and cats on Isabela Island thanks to the efforts of ABG, Galapagos Council, the local municipality and Animal Balance all working together to ensure that humane population control for cats and dogs is available to help protect the endemic species and sensitive biodiversity of the islands. 

 

2024 marks Animal Balance's 20th anniversary and 20 years of working on the Galapagos. Many lifelong friends have been made along the way, including some of the children who used to volunteer at our clinics and have gone on to become veterinarians themselves. This program is truly magical, and to join us on a trip will undoubtedly change your life forever. 

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The details

In order to apply to join our team on either Santa Cruz or Isabela Island, you must first read the following information and determine if this is the right fit for you. Travel to the islands is expensive and challenging, resources in the clinics are limited and we will ask that you bring some supplies in to help our teams on the ground with products that are more difficult to obtain in Ecuador. 

The cost to join us in Galapagos is $500 per person. This covers your entry fee into Galapagos as a volunteer, lunch at the clinic each day, your volunteer visa and assistance with booking flights and local hotels (we will not do this for you but can help answer questions about logistics and locations of hotels and flights). This fee also helps us to purchase supplies for the clinic in which you will be working. You will need to plan for two days of travel on both ends of your trip. So when you look at our clinic dates, plan to leave two days prior and return home roughly two days later than the last day of clinic. Your travel will include many plane flights, a number of water taxis, at least one bus, a 45 minute taxi ride and a three hour boat ride to Isabela if you choose to go to that island. You may arrive a few days early or stay a few days later, but you are bound to the dates listed on your visa and may not stay more than a few extra days on either end of the clinic. 

 

The clinic on Isabela is rustic and was previously used as a fire station. This is not your typical US clinic, however we do have anesthesia machines and soon we will also have an autoclave! We ask that you help our local team by bringing in flea and tick medication, leashes and collars and other supplies that are more expensive and difficult to obtain in Ecuador. The clinic on Santa Cruz island is at the offices of ABG and is held in partnership with the team at ABG. There will be both Spanish and English speaking veterinarians and technicians at this clinic. This clinic is more modern but is still quite different from what you may be used to and therefore you will need to adjust your expectations accordingly. 

 

Still interested? Great! We'd love to hear from you. Please email mgram@animalbalance.org with the dates you are interested in and we will arrange for a phone interview with our Galapagos Program Director, Jessica Gonzalez. You may also email Jessica directly at jgonzalez@animalbalance.org.

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