Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Monday 28th July

Today was a really special day for all of us. More work with Rhinos!

Knowing that Rhinos are being illegally poached worldwide, our Vets Go Wild Team was called once again to help prevent those attacks. After a really early wake up, we went onto a Game Reserve well known by its Rhinos.

Unfortunately, this second encounter with White Rhinos was once again to dehorn these amazing creatures.  This procedure is nowadays the most efficient way of saving our Rhinos from poaching.  However, many poachers still try to hunt dehorned Rhinos because it’s impossible to completely remove their horns.

What made this day so special? We were surrounded by photographers, journalists and all kinds of media professionals who recorded the procedure and learned what Dr Fowlds had to teach. Many interviews were made and many photos were taken. In the end, local journals, South Africa TV and Facebook pages published the entire work done in the morning. Even our International Vets Go Wild Team raised awareness by being part of most of the photos. The most interesting one was taken with all the different nationalities of students in the course using pieces of Rhino horn to make fake nails after the first procedure.

The substance in the Rhino horn – keratin – has been used worldwide, particularly in Asia, as medicine or decor and is made of exactly the same substance as our nails and hair.  Has anyone ever cured a terrible disease such as cancer by eating hair or nails? NO! Do you want to have a wedding gift made by Rhino horn?  Clearly no!

With all the dehorning done and news of Dr Fowlds’ work well spread, we hope that more awareness about this environmental problem has been shared.  Today, besides the English, French and Portuguese signs, we also used a Vietnamese one to raise awareness in the East, where most of the Rhino horn trade is occurring.

During the afternoon we had more lectures about wildlife diseases given by Christa van Wessem. It was a very interesting subject, especially learning about the infectious diseases that concern the wildlife vets and zoo vets.

Then it was time for a game drive in Amakhala, with the sunset to provide us great photos of the African fauna and flora!  In the evening the team decided that it was time for a movie, and what better movie to watch in Africa, after all the veterinary work done in the last few days, than the Lion King? Who knows but maybe tomorrow we could do some work with real life lions…

Written by Barbara Ferreira, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Lisbon, Portugal
and Nicole Oldfather, Iowa State University, College of Veterinary Medicine

Monday, 28 July 2014

Sunday 27th July

Today we were split into two groups for two different activities. One group did dart practice with both NewDart and DanInject guns while the other group went down the Bushman’s River on a leisurely boat cruise. The groups then switched activities.

At darting practice we learned how to load a dart and manoeuvre both types of guns. After practice there was a friendly darting competition from the 45-yard line. Each person shot two darts on their preferred gun and the person closest to the bull’s eye won. Erin was the deadeye shot that won! She gets a surprise gift on the last night.

On the boat cruise we saw otters, African Darter Birds, a Fish Eagle, Dab Chicks, a Leopard Tortoise, Vervet Monkeys and a Malachi Kingfisher.

After lunch Dr Roy Bengis came and gave three presentations. The first was about epidemiology, the second was about Anthrax in African Wildlife and the third was all about his job as a veterinarian at Kruger National Park. It was very interesting, especially learning about how diverse his job is and to learn about the issues wildlife face at the park.

Saturday 26th July

Today was a day for champions!  We started the adventure off with an early breakfast before heading out to Port Elizabeth (or PE as the locals call it) to watch some whales.  Once in PE we located the harbour and harbour master who took us down to the water’s edge where we located our boat.  From there we boarded the mighty vessel affectionately named Orca with our two ranger companions Geoff and Francois.  Our captain Lloyd took us across Algoa Bay where we came across a giant ball of fish that African penguins expertly herded to the surface and which Black Cormorants and a lonely Cape Gannet greedy were to take advantage of.  The hope was that this activity would draw larger predators such as Dolphins, Southern Right Whale, and Humpback Whales, which had just begun their migration.   We were also hoping to observe more local inhabitants such as the Bryde’s Whale and Killer Whale.  Alas none were spotted; so onward we went to St Croix Island.  We circled St Croix observing many cute African Penguins basking in the sun.  On the island were also remnants of the massive guano and egg trade that decimated the population in the late 1800s.  After the island we headed to the harbour and disembark to return to Amakhala for lunch.

After lunch we enjoyed a very informative lecture on Captive Animal Medicine in a zoo setting by Dr VanWessen.  She is a resident veterinarian at Paignton Zoo in the southwest of England.  In the lecture she discussed the importance of diet, enrichment and environment to the health and wellbeing of resident animals.  Furthermore, the importance of zoos to conservation and the roles zoos play in maintaining the genetic viability of endangered species was discussed.  She shared with us many interesting veterinary cases in which she was involved.

To end the day we headed to a local establishment called Sidbury and partook in local revelry with our ever-watchful ranger companions.  There were drinks and stories shared.  Some new friends were made, and some games of beer pong were won by many.

Written by Jack Hamersky and Erin Bradley