The Vets Eco Experience program is designed for students who are studying to become vets to get some practical experience, in particular with wildlife. This year our third year vet students came from Glasgow University. On arrival the group settled around the camp fire with a traditional braai and an introduction talk.
The next day started with a talk on game capture and the methods we use for the different game we capture on Shamwari. This is to prepare the students for what they will get involved in. The young vets met local vet, Murray Stoke, who would be their mentor during their stay at SCE. They were told that their duties during game capture would include loading and offloading of the animals, monitoring breathing and heart rate and discussing which ‘’knock-down’’ and ‘’wake-up’’ drugs to use on the different animals captured.
In the two short weeks we darted zebra, waterbuck and impala, which were sold to other game reserves. We treated buffalos for mainge, a hair loss disease. We darted our two fertility research elephant bulls, Jabulani and Meshatu with the Onderstepoort vet research team and the students got to watch the interesting process of the sperm collection. Konrad and myself got to fly in the helicopter to find the bulls. The students learned about the reality of game capture when an eland cow died after running down a valley and we couldn’t find her in time. They later conducted an autopsy on it to determine the cause of death.
One of the most exciting parts of the course for Konrad and myself was visiting a local dairy farm. The students wanted to see how we South Africans do things, but I think Konrad and myself learned more from this experience as we are only ever involved in wildlife. The cows walks onto this rotating wheel, where they eat their food while getting milked and by the time the wheel has rotated 360 degrees it walks off and is replaced by another cow. And there is about 900 of them … Wow!! Besides the veterinary component we also did a few predator, elephant and rhino monitoring sessions and some shooting on the course. We also did a night petrol, where we saw a brown hyena, porcupine, small spotted genet, striped-polecat, hippos and lions hunting.
As usual, we did not forget our weekly visit to Sinovuyo to spend some time with the kids. On the last day we decided to go on one last game drive, but was called to assist in doing a health check on an old lioness at Born Free, who wasn’t looking too great the day before. The students drew some of the cats’ blood to send away for testing and put her on a drip as she was very dehydrated. Then it was time to rush home or we would miss the taxi. After a very poor attempt from the students trying to sing the South African anthem and an excellent recital of the Scottish national anthem by Konrad and myself, we said good bye. Good bye you pale Brits! You will be missed!