Saturday, April 2, 2011
A helicopter and a skilled pilot (thanks Johan) are an amazing help with capturing wild buffalos. Suddenly you don't have to worry about tracking carefully in the bush to prevent the animals running away. On foot in the bush, you only get one chance and sometimes zero. Also a bad shot punishes you immediately, because sometimes we don't see the animal again for 2 weeks or so. From a helicopter the work is very different. When an animal runs off, it's fairly easy to find it again. After having darted around 3.500 wild animals on foot, horseback, a jeep and even a tree (waiting for hours and hours for one lucky shot), it was such a pleasure to dart from a helicopter. Because the terrain was open and the buffalos could see us from a long distance, it was impossible to approach the wild herd of buffalos within 50 meter or so. We had to catch the complete herd of 23 buffalos to move them to another area. Therefore we did not have another option than renting a helicopter and pilot. Luckily my boss agreed. The darting (practise makes lucky!) and all anesthetics went very well. We took blood to test for Brucella, Corridor's disease and Foot and Mouth Disease and we did skin tests for Tuberculosis. These are the 4 'controlled diseases' in South Africa. African buffalos must be free of all these 4 diseases prior to getting a permit to leave an area (if they carry one of them, they can infect domestic cattle, which would be a disaster). All tests were negative, so I loaded all buffalos in a truck last week. The herd moved to their new home where they are roaming freely again!