Calendars and stray dogs: How would you link them together? A Slovakian-born photographer, Erika Valkovicova, found the connection when she raised funds for two animal welfare societies in Seychelles through the sale of calendars.
Following a long, unexpected, COVID-19-induced stay exceeding five months in Seychelles, Valkovicova compiled a calendar showcasing a handful of photos she shot while in the island nation.
Selling the calendars for €20 each via her Instagram profile dedicated to Seychelles, on Facebook and her website, the Prague-based photographer raised around €400 that was donated to the Seychelles Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SSPCA) and Pet Haven.
The story started in February 2020, when Valkovicova came to Seychelles for the third time, with plans to spend two weeks visiting Aldabra and the Outer Islands on a sailing expedition. The 14-day vacation turned out to last 140 days due to travel restrictions worldwide as the COVID-19 pandemic started plaguing different countries.
"I am Slovak, my partner is British, and we both live in Prague, Czech Republic. We left our residency permits at home in our safe. When the country issued a state of emergency, we could not enter the Czech Republic without these permits," she said.
Valkovicova explained that she was on Mahe, the main island, when the news broke that Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, was to go into a lockdown. She and her partner moved to La Digue, Seychelles' third-most populated island, as the photographer was not driving at the time. She said that on La Digue, she had more flexibility on a bicycle, and hence had freedom when moving around the island during her hunt for the perfect photo.
"During my stay, the beach strays followed me, and since there were no tourists, I gave them the much-needed attention. They often just wanted a human presence or a gentle touch. They gave me comfort and love in those uncertain times," said Valkovicova.
"I was always an animal person, and it took a short walk on the island to have a pack of six, seven dogs following me home! I learned about the situation with the strays and the urgent need for sterilisation. I thought the best way of sharing a bit of paradise could be a calendar with my landscape photographs for a good cause," she continued.
The photographer, who fell in love with Seychelles as a teenager, told SNA that during her stay on La Digue, she met Rita Hinder from the Blue House who gave her helpful information on caring for strays. That is when the idea to raise funds for SSPCA and Pet Haven was born.
"Since I printed a small batch of calendars - 30 pieces in total - at the last minute in November, the whole profit was around €200. I also sold some image licenses, which boosted the full amount up to €400. Both SSPCA and Pet Haven received €200 each. Overall, it is not too much, but it could finance the sterilisation of 20 dogs with the current exchange rate," she explained.
Valcovicova came back in April 2021 as soon as the country opened its borders to all visitors and made the donation.
"I am always heartbroken to hear about the dumped puppies or kittens on the side of the road. Or even in the bin. Sterilisation is the best way to reduce unwanted offspring. It is a huge problem in many other countries, too. Another thing to mention is education. I still talk to many dog owners who don't know how to treat fleas and ticks and worms and care for their pets," said Valkovicova.
She shared with SNA that at the moment she is helping a local wildlife sanctuary -- Protect Paradise Seychelles -- with their launch, working on media content for their social media and website. The sanctuary focuses on rescue, rehabilitation and release of Hawksbill Turtles, Seychelles Flying Foxes and Aldabra Giant Tortoises and any other endemic or indigenous wildlife that needs assistance after a rescue.