Herwig Zach (Associação Bons Amigos)


Associaçāo Bons Amigos (Good Friends Association) is a non profit organization based in the city of Praia, Cape Verde. Associaçāo Bons Amigos works to bring awareness of better treatment of animals to Praia. They do so via deworming campaigns and castration campaigns to reduce the stray animal population in the city of Praia. Associaçāo Bons Amigos also works with local authorities in an effort to create legislation for better treatment of animals.

The association was founded in the year 2000 by Austrian veterinarian, Henriette Wirtl, in the section of Ponta de Água in Praia, Cape Verde.

Herwig Zach is a medical advisor, and the president of Associaçāo Bons Amigos, the Austria branch. He’s also the president of Associaçāo Bons Amigos board in Cape Verde.

We had the opportunity to sit down and talk to Herwig about Associaçāo Bons Amigos arrival and continuous growth in Praia, Cape Verde.

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Can you tell us about the beginning of Associaçāo Bons Amigos in Praia, Cape Verde? How it all got started?

The beginning was in fact a big play of chance. I was working as a veterinarian in a private practice and one of my clients, an Austrian lady, Henriette Wirtl, was traveling to Cape Verde. She did not speak Criole, but she did speak Portuguese. She wanted to go to Cape Verde because she discovered there was a big stray animal population in Cape Verde and she wanted to help.

She asked me, is there something that can be done? Not having much knowledge about it, I said, there is something that can be done and I will find out what it is.

From there we started to discuss what could be done and we also investigated. In May of the year 2000 we went to Cape Verde with a group of veterinarians and helpers and we made our first assistance to stray animals campaign in Cape Verde.

Our campaign started in the section of Praia name Ponta de Àgua. The duration of our campaign was three weeks and we were extremely impressed with the work we did and the reaction of the people.

The people were impressed about what could be done without much resources. They saw that what was needed was motivation and cooperation. Also, our whole group was very impressed and none of us could forget the experience.

What exactly was done throughout the three week campaign?

During the three week campaign we treated stray animals. We treated them against diseases and diseases that were transmissible to human beings. We also castrated them. We castrated the stray animals to reduce their capacity of reproduction, which is still the basis of our association, Associação Bons Amigos.

From the first time we went to Cape Verde we then kept going back almost every year. Within a few years we found out that it was necessary to be in Cape Verde through out the whole year, permanently.

We would also go on to discover that the World Health Organization has thoughts on how to deal with the problem of stray animals. Therefore we integrated the idea of the world health organization to our concept.

We got closer to the communities in Praia, Cape Verde. We and the people started to cooperate more and more. And now we’re an association that is well known and now we receive cooperation from the Mayor’s Office of Praia and from the Minister of Agriculture. We want this cooperation to continue to grow in the best way possible. I’m very proud about the evolution of this cooperation.

What was the reception of Associação Bons Amigos like in the beginning?

The people received us well from the very beginning. When we first came we thought we would have to go out in the streets catch the street animals, but no. It was completely different, the people brought their animals to us. They brought us stray animals. They wanted the animals to be treated and most of them wanted their animals castrated. That was very good to see.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the concept you reference on, “Patients and clients?”

I always say that the animals are our patients. We treat them to make them healthy and to prevent them from getting diseases and from transmitting diseases to people. We also castrate them so that they don’t reproduce. We do this in order to keep the stray animal population at a certain level of control.

So, the animals are our patients, but our clients are of course the people. We have to work with the people. We have to get them to see our vision. We have to put them on our side so that we can work together for the sake of the animals and a healthier environment for us all.

The people in Cape Verde do help because they see that the situations in the areas where they live in Praia have gotten better. It’s a win-win situation.

Why is it important to keep the reproduction of the animals low?

It’s important to keep reproduction low because many of the animals in Cape Verde live on the streets. Also, even animals that have owners tend to live on the streets. The house the animal belongs to may be small therefore the animal will live on the street. That is a common situation in Cape Verde.

And also, some owners may feel that the puppies of their dogs are not their responsibility. Therefore, they do not make an effort to reduce the reproduction of their animals.

Therefore, with so many animals on the street, they will breed whenever they can. Therefore, to combat this constant possibility of breeding, we castrate them. This is done primarily to help keep the stray animal population under control. This is also a very humane thing to do so that we do not see many stray puppies and kitties suffering on the streets.

What was done previous to the arrival of Associaçāo Bons Amigos in Praia to keep the stray animal population control low?

Previous to our arrival in Praia the local authorities dealt with the stray animal population by killing them, usually by poisoning them. This method was actually counter productive. The reason is because, for example, they would poison all the animals in a particular area and then there would be a vacuum there. The area would be empty of animals. However, this would increase migration of animals to that same area. Now the new arrivals would reproduce even more and the prevalence of diseases would become even greater with all of these new arriving animals constantly reproducing.


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