Breann Jolliffe - Ross
As the wheels to the plane finally touch ground, our pilot announces overhead, “Sorry for the abrupt turn, we had to avoid some vultures. Welcome to Africa. On your left are warthogs”. At that moment, I knew this trip would be one I would never forget.
In August of 2014, a few friends and I expanded our experiences in veterinary medicine with South Africa World Vets. This team is based out of Hoedspruit, South Africa and includes a wildlife veterinarian, a small animal veterinarian, a helicopter pilot, wildlife experts, as well as their support staff. They were all welcoming, accommodating, knowledgeable, and had a passion for teaching.
For two weeks, we stayed in cozy lodges on a large game reserve located near the Greater Kruger National Park. Every night we gathered around a fire with a homemade dinner that was so delicious, I would go back for the food alone.
Our two-week trip lead right up to the weekend of the spring season game auction in Nelspruit, South Africa. This auction gathers farmers who are interested in buying and selling their animals for breeding purposes. The farmers keep detailed records of their animals including their birthdates, individual gestation periods, and even their lineages to prevent inbreeding. This auction puts monetary value on the livelihood of these animals and therefore additionally helps conservational efforts. Many of our experiences came from helping different farmers prepare for this event.
Sedation and proper animal handling were used on every animal we assessed. The type of sedative and handling technique used varied with species. A few of the species we encountered were sable, impala, buffalo, nyala, eland, wild dogs and an elephant. During our encounter with each species, we learned their different habits, family orders, different reactions to medications, and the characteristics desired for those at auction.
Most of our experience came from working with the beautiful sable. These farmers put a great deal of trust into their veterinarians, as this endangered antelope species can be worth over $1 million USD. After the animal is sedated, we would assist by holding the head properly to prevent aspiration, check respiration rate and quality, and give intramuscular injections as needed. We were able to confirm a few pregnancies via ultrasonography as well. All of this was completed prior to gathering a team of 8 or more people to carry the sable in a sling to the transporting vehicle. Once loaded, the veterinarian would give the reversal.