In between sunrise and sunset game drives through the park, Lankester and Faust go over budgets, planning the program’s future. And they make group dinners that also include Bigambo and Anna Czupryna,
Faust's graduate student from Chicago who is doing research on domestic dog demographics in four villages southwest of the park.
It is a kind of preamble to a meeting in Chicago three weeks later. Faust, Lankester and Dr. Guy Palmer, founding director of the Allen School, are among those who spend two days in a conference room on zoo grounds.
The Serengeti Health Initiative’s future is on the table, but, the participants explain, there was never profound concern that the zoo and the university wouldn't continue the project.
The commitment the two institutions make is for five more years, but in a more equal partnership.
“Washington State's agenda is more of a livestock, public health one,” Lankester explains. “Lincoln Park Zoo's is more of a conservation outcome. This is unique. There's something for both organizations here.” There’ll be an increased focus on doing scientific research associated with the program, says Faust. One idea is to seek funding to turn over some of the work in the vaccination zone to local authorities and assess the results.
That feeds into another goal, to make more concrete plans for an exit strategy.
“We’re not ready to give it up. We’re going to stay involved,” says zoo CEO Kevin Bell. “But eventually we’re going to turn it over to the Tanzanians.”
This is why the zoo brought some of its Serengeti staff to Chicago for a month of training in the spring of 2010. And why it has expanded the reach of the anti-rabies program by supplying vaccine doses to district veterinary officers in areas beyond the sanitary cordon and training them to administer the vaccines.
But there are many complications to making a complete handoff, say those involved, from researchers to Tanzanian officials.
To help replace Lankester, the zoo decides to hire Czupryna, who has three years of experience in Tanzania and intimate knowledge of the project, as a sort of assistant manager (though her title will be research coordinator).
The money will be welcome, Czupryna says in an email from Tanzania, “but I'm actually just really, really happy that we (the zoo) have signed on for another 5 years to keep this project going. We've all been on edge the past few months.
“After really seeing the impact that rabies can have, I am ecstatic that this is going to continue and give us time to really get this transition going and going well.”
The decisions made in Chicago mean there’ll be many more such scenes as the one on vaccination day in Bunda.
There, in addition to the inoculation site at the market, a second one is set up out front of two cotton warehouses just beyond a local primary school. Puffs of the area’s primary crop are still on the ground as people show up with their dogs and, in one case, a cat carried in an empty cement bag. Agnes Justine, a local businesswoman, brings her dog for the third year in a row.
“The guys on the team are so invested in the project,” Czupryna says. “They really believe in this, and they really encourage people not only to come but to come back.”
Paulo Charles Tango, the research assistant delivering the injections, pulls a boy aside to tell him not to grab his dog by the ears, a practice many boys adopt from handling livestock.
Another boy, wearing a bright orange polo shirt, has brought three dogs on three different types of leashes – rope, chain-link and rubber – along with the vaccination certificates that detail the injections they’ve received.
He seems more attentive to his dogs than most as the animals get their shots.
And then, still quiet, the boy walks them away, toward a path through a field. He tucks the brown cards into a pocket of his cargo pants and buttons it shut for protection.