Those involved in the fight against rabies on this island have foolishly tried to claim early success in their vaccination scheme when firm evidence shows rabies is as much a threat to human life in Bali as it was when the epidemic broke out over two years ago.
Self-serving declarations by government officials and those from the Bali Animal Welfare Association, which is assisting in the island-wide vaccination experiment, do the people of Bali a vast disservice with oft-repeated claims that we’re almost in control of rabies.
Confirming this week that 131 people had died in Bali during the current outbreak, the Animal Husbandry Department said rabies is present in almost two dozen villages around Bali. The department was perplexed why some villages were resistant to rabies-eradication measures – the inoculation programme – when they had been thoroughly covered and posited that rabid dogs may be wandering in and out from other areas.
We are not puzzled by this. From the outset of this shockingly mismanaged threat to human life that has led to familial tragedy around the island, we have called for the entire army of stray dogs – many hundreds of thousands – to be eliminated, and for additional reasons besides rabies, including the traffic accidents frequently cased by strays. But the government’s sporadic cull was insufficient and it eventually capitulated to animal-welfare activists appalled at the killings and waving cash to fund a humane vaccination drive that they said would work, because “experts” had said so.
There is no doubt that the inoculation experiment is failing. A targeted deadline for the elimination of rabies has even been moved back three years from an initial target of next year. And the reason the rabies battle is not being won is because of the sheer numbers of the principal host – dogs. Until Bali’s stray-dog population is removed, and proper control of dogs is enforced, this is one sad story that has no end in sight.