Brian Tighe, Ross University
Experiences, Honorable Mention
Often times when a person says you’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with a multimillion dollar industry, the opportunity to take care of animals that run into the tens of thousands of dollars per individual, a lot of feelings can come rushing towards you. Excitement at the opportunity, disbelief in the trust placed upon you, anxiety over the possibility of a single mishap ruining your entire career, but the one emotion you would never expect is complacency. Sable antelope, Hippotragus niger, is a species of antelope found in the savannahs of Africa. Its rarity is dependent on the subspecies, spanning the spectrum from critically endangered to least concern, but that “least concern” label didn’t happen by itself.
The farmers of South Africa have learned what valuable assets these animals can be, allowing offers from wealthy folks all over the world to spill in to purchase them for a variety of reasons, the most being hunting. This gave great incentive to increase their numbers. So when this student says he grew complacent seeing these creatures, he wasn’t bored or uninterested in them. It was the sheer fact that on any given day as he drove threw the country, visiting farm after farm, these animals were everywhere. Ever been to Pennsylvania and seen all the white-tailed deer? Or how about sheep in New Zealand? Or castles in Ireland? It was kind of like that. By the end of the trip we had seen so many Sable antelope we stopped taking pictures of them. And you know what other emotion that made us realize on our journey back? Pride in the efforts of conservationists, farmers, and veterinarians who were able to take an animal who used to have such low numbers and blow them up into a common sighting.
I was one of fourteen students who went on an excursion to South Africa to follow a wildlife veterinarian as he worked to help farmers and maintain conservation of the animal species there. The group was called SAWorldVets and was worth every penny. Essentially we were following him on a day to day work schedule, awakening each morning before sunrise to whatever was scheduled, lunch, going out to calls, and then finally coming back in the evening to crash around the campfire. Luckily for us, we just so happened to arrive two weeks before a giant auction that would involve many of the farmers in the area and, of course, they all wanted their animals in top shape.