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Welcome return of Unitec veterinary team to Tonga

  • Tonga 2022 Veterinary team

It was a welcome return to Tonga for Unitec's veterinary nursing team. The veterinary nursing programme has been collaborating with South Pacific Animal Welfare (SPAW) since 2013, taking a veterinary team to Tonga yearly to care for animals on the island.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic and the volcanic eruption in 2022 meant the team hadn’t visited the island nation since 2019.

The trip is normally held every year in the first week of December as part of the Summer School course, says Academic Programme Manager Laura Harvey.

This year, a team consisting of 22 veterinary nurses, veterinarians and veterinary nursing students headed to the main island of Tongatapu for a week.

While there, the team worked tirelessly, spaying and neutering cats and dogs and treating other animals, including a few pigs, says Laura.

“Over the week, we did about 235 surgeries and 100 consults. The feedback from the students was very positive as they had the opportunity to improve their practical skills in a concentrated time period. They also learned to communicate with clients who had limited English, and handle any unexpected situations that arose.

“The programme had significantly improved animal welfare in Tonga, but because of the three-year break, a lot of our work had regressed, she says.

“However, it also acted as a reset. A Bachelor of Veterinary Nursing student is now collecting data as part of their degree research project so we can track the effect of our work in the long-term.”

The collaboration has helped the School build long-lasting relationships with SPAW, which is doing valuable educational work in the region on animal care, such as vaccinations and deworming.

The trip is partly funded by Unitec and SPAW, while ākonga pay their own way. The team also fundraises for the trip, and if you would like to support them, please click here