Saturday, September 25, 2010

Vaccinating roan calves

Roan antelopes are one of the most endangered antelopes in the world. We have one of the largest herds with approximately 140 individuals. Because they are originally not from this area they do not have a high immunity to a blood parasite Theilleria, transmitted by ticks. Therefore I dart each calf born at 3 weeks to vaccinate it with a specially made vaccin and to dip them with Frontline spray for ticks. This is collaborative study with the Veterinary Faculty at Onderstepoort to investigate the effect of different vaccins and it's planned that all results will be published. So far darted I 56 calves in the last 2 months, so it's a lot of work. Darting roan calves is challenging, as the mothers and calves are often very clever. The record was spending 4 afternoons in a tree to dart one(!) calf. Wow, what an amazing feeling to finally be able to get it! Yeah, how to explain I get paid by sitting in a tree all day, haha. Most calves I dart from horseback: working together with a horse is very special and different from riding 'just for fun'. Some horses even approach the antelopes as slowly as they can, when they know I am darting. They seem to understand what we're trying to do. Now I understand the special bond cowboys have with their horses.

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