Thursday, August 9, 2012

African buffalos are one of the species I work with most. Because they are identical to domestic cattle, they can get infected with all bovine diseases. African buffalos don't get ill and don't show any symptoms, but once infected they are able to infect domestic cattle, with devastating results for the South African meat and cattle industry. Therefore the movements of buffalos is highly controlled and restricted by the South African government. Each buffalo must get tested several times with a TB skin test and serology (anti-bodies in the blood) for the most common infectious diseases (TB, Corridors disease, Brucella abortus and Foot and Mouth disease), prior to getting a permit to move. By now I have darted over 5.000 buffalos and still love working with these highly intelligent and social herd animals. Never underestimate an African buffalo! To see how clever they are, go see "Battle of Kruger" on YouTube, one of the best nature films ever made by a lucky tourist.  


Sunday, August 5, 2012

Moving a giant

Elephants have a strong bond with their family members. Therefore it's important to dart elephants from a helicopter, to make sure that you can keep an eye on family members coming back to help the sleeping one and warn the team on the ground. It is possible to dart elephants on foot, but this can get very dangerous.
If the matriarch, the leader, gets immobilized first the other family members will stay around her. This makes it easier to dart the entire family to re-locate them. The most common reasons for us to dart wild elephants are snares, wounds, to apply a radio-collar for research purposes and sometimes to move them.   

When the elephant is down, I jump out of the helicopter and run to the sleeping giant. The first thing to do when arriving at an elephant under anesthetics is to check the trunk. Elephants can not breath through their mouth, so the airway of trunk must be completely free. If its blocked by a leg or body they will die! A stick in the tip of the trunk helps to keep it nice open. Also, the large abdominal cavity full with heavy organs prevents an elephant to breath well when laying on his or her belly. Therefore the next thing is to push the elephant on his or her side. Capturing an elephant is team work!
The huge weight of an adult elephant can be carried by the four legs, only when the weight is equally divided over all 4 limps. Therefore we must make sure that a four chains are properly attached and can't slip off.