Work on this project will give you experience across many areas, including some veterinary experience, participation in some game captures and some community work. You may also get involved in other conservation-related fields, including wildlife monitoring. The amount of time you will have in the different areas will vary depending on the length of time you are there and what type of work is taking place or is required at that time. ere are some examples of what you may be able to participate in:
The Project works with a number of veterinarians, all of whom are very well established. This part of the programme will give you a taste of assisting a wildlife vet and conservation experts in their day-to-day activities. You'll accompany the vet and help them on their wide range of different duties.
- You might assist a vet with the diagnosis and treatment of various injuries, conditions and diseases of animals, monitoring the animal's health and providing support to the vet. However, this will depend on the wildlife vet you join and what is happening at the time you are there.
- Veterinary procedures can range from operations in the field with wildlife, to working on livestock or within specific wildlife breeding facilities and, due to the isolated environment, you may also be involved in assisting domesticated animals in certain cases. This could entail treating domesticated animals either belonging to the reserves, farms or people living in the local communities. These domesticated animals are often at risk to the dangers associated in the rural South African environment, such as attacks by wild species including snake bites.
- Farming is a major part of the South African economy and, depending on the vet you are placed with, you may also find yourself assisting with management, vaccinations and diseases controls. Some of the vets are working with pioneering technology like ultrasounds and other procedures and, therefore, this is a unique learning opportunity.
- Many vets work alongside the game capture, providing the essential experience required when darting animals because of the specialised drugs used. Normally you’ll assist with the immobilisation and ensuring that the animals being treated are comfortable. You also assist in monitoring their condition before the animal is transported.
- Other opportunities can include going out on emergency call-outs to assist in many different situations. The call-outs do happen often, but obviously cannot be guaranteed as they are unplanned events and can be very exciting.
This is a particularly exciting element on this programme! Game captures are a regular
occurrence between March to October. You'll work with a dedicated local team that
specialises in capturing and relocating wildlife. This activity is vital for wildlife
conservation and management.
As wilderness areas shrink and the need for land increases, space for wildlife is decreasing rapidly. Management of ranches and reserves is essential to maintain a healthy balance and ensure the continued survival of all species. Through game capture large numbers of animals can be moved safely from one area to another.
Captures are done for a number of reasons and an essential part of managing the
continued existence of wildlife in the region. Some of the objectives include:
1. Restocking animals into new areas;
2. Retaining the population and diversity of the local wildlife through careful
handling of general and endangered wildlife
3. Game capturing also has huge economic and employment benefits to the local community.
Game captures will give you a unique opportunity to the reality of conservation in the region as well as the long term objectives they are working towards to ensure a positive impact to both wildlife and local communities. You'll be able to get much closer to the animals than would normally be possible, as well as being able to observe their behaviour and movements.
Although game captures occur regularly during the dry winter period, they can be subject to the weather, especially the wind and to the animals themselves, so patience and flexibility is essential.
Game capture and relocation services are an important part of land management. If left unchecked, the numbers of certain species will grow too large and become damaging to the land. They can destroy local eco-systems, which can take decades to recover.
Reserve owners and managers rely on game capture and relocation as a tool to manage these animal numbers to maintain balance. Game capture teams are highly experienced in this field and can safely move large numbers of animals from one area to another as needed. This not only helps to keep numbers in check in one area, but also helps to repopulate areas where game numbers are too low or on new reserves. Certain species of animals can be housed in a facility for short periods of time before being moved to new areas.
HOW IT WORKS
Once it is decided to move certain animals from one area to another, the team will start constructing large canvas capture ‘bomas’. A boma is a structure made of canvas curtains which is usually 3 meters high suspended on cables and can be as long as 300m long and 200m wide depending on area and species being captured. They are triangular in most cases and designed like a funnel, with the entrance or mouth of the boma being very wide and well camouflaged. It then narrows to a ramp at the rear of the boma which leads into the capture trucks. The team is able to construct one of these bomas in half a day and then begin capture that same day!
The animals are located in the bush using a helicopter and then herded towards the boma. Once the animals are near the boma the helicopter moves closer and to encourage the animals into boma.
A series of curtains which run across the boma are hung and hidden from the animals as they enter the boma. Game capture staff and volunteers hide inside the curtains until the animal run past them and then they close the curtains behind the animals by sprinting to pull the curtains closed. This ensures that the animals keep moving towards the trucks and cannot turn back. Everything is well controlled and the animals are usually safely in the trucks within a minute or 2 of entering the boma.
As the animals enter the boma, the helicopter will sound a siren indicating to the ground staff hiding behind the first curtain to close their curtain. Then, as the animals then move past the second curtain, the helicopter again sounds a siren to close the second curtain. This is repeated until the animals are past all of the curtains and into the specially designed trucks waiting for them. This part of the experience can be very exciting and it gets the adrenalin flowing!
THE GAME CAPTURE EXPERIENCE
Volunteers have an exciting experience working with the game capture team. You'll be part of the crew pulling curtains in the bomas as the capture commences, depending on which species is being captured. Some species are more difficult to capture and can be more dangerous (like buffalo) and volunteers will not be allowed to be on foot inside boma for these types of animals. Instead, you will assist on top of truck to separate, sort and tranquilize the animals as they enter the trucks.
This is a hands on experience which is both exciting and very interesting and you will travel to different ranches and reserves to conduct the captures.
The capture team is experienced in catching most species of game which includes: giraffe, buffalo, eland, kudu, roan, sable, waterbuck, gemsbuck, wildebeest, zebra, ostrich, impala, Nyala, hartebeest, tsesebe, blesbuck, springbuck and many others too.
Some species need to be darted from the air for capture purposes. Once the animals are sedated they are blindfolded and carried on stretchers to trucks etc. You may also get the opportunity to fly in the helicopter while searching for game or while moving between different reserves.
The Project works closely with the local community to help preserve and protect the local environment and endangered wildlife from major problems in the region, such as illegal hunting. Each week you will be helping on a local community project for a few hours. Work might include helping at the local school or community centre where many past volunteers have run special workshops and classes about the local environment and wildlife.
Other projects have also included building a football pitch and community centre, both of which have helped create employment as well as social sports and recreational activities. All the community activities have developed stronger relations with the community and have had been of massive benefit to both the people and the wildlife.
There will also be occasions when you may be involved in wildlife monitoring and
surveillance with a team member. This could include:
- tracking and locating a particular species
- mapping the sightings
- collecting data
- setting up camera traps or
- assisting with ongoing game counts.
These are all essential activities needed to ensure the efficient and smooth management
of a game reserve. This part of the programme will give you the opportunity to observe
the animals in their natural habitat.