Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Pre-Vet Students Volunteer in South Africa

Pre-vet volunteers assisting in an impala relocation
December saw the arrival of two groups of Pre-Vet volunteers through International Student Volunteers (ISV) who have shown huge support to VA32 projects throughout 2013. These groups were the first to take part in the new Pre-Vet Group Program designed for groups of students, schools and special interest groups looking to volunteer on a worthwhile program.

Based in an Eastern Cape Game Reserve, the Pre-Vet volunteer teams spent 2 weeks working with the local wildlife including rhino, nyala, impala, giraffe and countless bird and small mammal species as well as taking part in lectures and hands on conservation management tasks. They also had hands on experience with agricultural livestock and vulnerable domestic animals in local farms and townships.

Project Highlights - by volunteer group leader Denver

Group 1
"The first group saw 12 enthusiastic volunteers enjoy great weather - sunny, warm and calm - a pleasure to work in. One morning we woke up to rhinos in the garden at the volunteer lodge! It was amazing...and a little bit scary! Although the rhinos were more scared than we were and ran away as soon as they realized we were there.
Rhinos in our garden!

We also got the spend the day with a qualified wildlife vet which was a great experience; we had lessons and lectures on darting and darting equipment, dosages and the varying dosage and darting techniques for different animals.
Taking part in lectures about darting


We experienced several game captures including a female nyala, an impala and a giraffe; the animals were being captured to relocate to alternative reserves and it was great to get this experience and to be so close to animals in the wild.
Assisting in the relocation of
an impala

We spent a lot of time doing hands-on work with cattle - injecting them against diseases and taking lectures on sustainable beef farming and dairy farming, learning about the risks and rewards of sustainable farming. Working with vulnerable domestic animals in the local townships was also a great hands-on experience; learning to deflea and dip dogs and teaching their owners how to care for them properly.
Dipping domestic animals in local tonwhips

Learning how to de-flea domestic animals

...and teaching owners how to care for their pets
It was a real highlight to spend time with project leader Dennis Taylor and work with him in the field - his knowledge base and practical skills in conservation and wildlife management are incredible and great to pass on to aspiring vets and those interested in working with wildlife."

Group 2
"The second group was much larger with 23 volunteers plus their professor and we experienced terrible weather for the first week on project! Dennis was all set up with lectures and learning experiences for the volunteers while the Summer rains came down. Well done Dennis!

The second week the rain cleared up and we had some amazing darting experiences. We took part in two giraffe captures which hold a huge risk for the animal as giraffes are so delicate. You have plus/minus 4 minutes from when the giraffe goes under, to lift and move it into the trailer and reverse the drug. It's quite a high stress situation. The first capture was successful but the second wasn't - the giraffe couldn't be moved in time and unfortunately the animal died. All vets understand this risk when moving such delicate animals but it's still so sad to lose an animal. A positive outcome of the failed relocation was that the Pre-Vets got the opportunity to perform a necropsy on the giraffe which is almost unheard of for Pre-Vet students! They really got an amazing experience to explore the bone and muscle make-up of one of the worlds largest but most delicate animals which most vets would not get the opportunity to do in their lifetime!
Helping to move a giraffe for relocation

Securing the trailer

Giraffe relocation in motion!

A close up ;)

Checking that the giraffe is still in
a good condition during the

and...cameras ready! 

Releasing the giraffe in it's new home

The reserve we are based on is incredible, surrounded by subtropical forest and grass land. Game viewing is exceptional (and literally right on the doorstep!). We counted 38 giraffes one day when we drove over a hill! We also saw countless rhino on a daily basis which is such an amazing thing in the face of the current poaching issues in SA.
Weaver nests built on a wire fence

Beautiful African skies


Wild buck in the back garden!

Tracks and trails of African wildlife


Lectures with group leader Andy

When I chatted to the Pre-Vet volunteers upon leaving the project they felt that they had gained incredible amounts of hands-on experience and have learnt an incredible amount from our professional vets and experienced wildlife staff. It really has been an amazing month on the reserve."

The next group of volunteers will be arriving on the reserve on 5th Jan 2014 for a 2 week conservation project. Find out more about our experiences for groups of volunteers.

April & Denver

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