On the 28th of June 2017, I set off for what was to become an action packed 18 days with 79 other vet students from around the world all interested in one thing- African wildlife and a vet’s role in it. I was heading to Johannesburg, South Africa where I was lucky enough to be selected to join their biannual symposium on Veterinary Wildlife Utilisation in Southern Africa. We’d be travelling across the East of South Africa working with many vets, many wild animals and getting to the root of how to solve the problems that South African wildlife is undergoing today.
There were many things that I was worried about pre-adventure. Will I get eaten by a lion? Will I get charged at by an elephant? But seriously, my real worry was would I make any friends? It’s safe to say that I landed in South Africa knowing no one and left with 79 new friends that I’ve shared lifelong memories with.
So, what did I do on this 18 day trip of a lifetime across South Africa?
I can’t write about everything in detail so I’ll just mention my personal highlights.
Across these 18 days I was able to take part in lectures from amazing wildlife vets who are playing major roles in conservation in South Africa. Rhino dehorning, horn infusion, TB in Kruger and rabies throughout the Wild Dog population.
One of the most amazing activities I got to take part in was Rhino dehorning in a private game reserve. This is one of the ways rhino owners are trying to tackle poachers. If most of the rhino’s horn is gone then poachers are less likely to risk their lives for a tiny amount of horn. However this doesn’t always stop them. They darted the rhino from a helicopter and we raced on pick up trucks to the site that the rhino went down. They applied local anaesthetic to the nerves surrounding the horn and then removed the horn with a chainsaw. After microchipping the remaining horn and giving antibiotics, the rhino were good to go!
As well as this we were able to go up in a helicopter to practice our darting skills. Using a paintball gun loaded with tick repellent balls, we were able to try our hand at ‘darting’. Shooting at buffalo, zebra, giraffe and wildebeest we all soon felt like ‘proper’ wildlife vets! Doing this is one method to keep tick infestations down on a game reserve.
This trip has really broadened my views on how to tackle different conservation problems as well as listening to the extremely varied views from the different students on this symposium. Darting elephants, free diving with sharks and going on a Blyde River Cruise are just three of the things that I haven’t been able to mention in this short blog so hopefully the following photos do say 1000 words!
Many thanks to the Principal’s Go Abroad Fund for aiding me on going on this trip.
Elephant Darting in Kruger National Park.
Rhino dehorning in a private game reserve.
Free diving with sharks at Scottburgh.
Darting practice in a chopper.
Blyde River Cruise