We’ve been so busy since the last update so I will only highlight the main things! We did some mass capture, caught a lot of impala, zebra, wildebeest, kudu and such. Shaun got to dart a Klipspringer for transport which was pretty awesome. They’re these cute little antelope that hangout on rocks and they sweat out of their hooves to help them to stay on the rocks, pretty neat little guys! It felt just like a hedgehog, which was NOT what I was expecting it to feel like at all. So it was like petting Rafiki (Bible study SHOUTOUT)
We got really bored on the days when the wind was bad so we couldn’t capture because the animals could smell the boma and wouldn’t come near it when chased with the helicopter so we decided to try and sell wood on the side of the road. Every car honked at us….but nobody bought wood so that was a fail but it was really fun.
We then moved to another farm to catch Nyala’s and basically anything else we could find because the guy is selling and wants all his animals off. We ended up catching about 26 nyalas and an oribi (which is endangered and almost extinct!)
We also did some night darting…which is like an intense game of hide and seek. You dart the animals, they run and then you try to find them with telemetry, which is basically like a tracking device in the dart to locate them once they go down. So you’re running around in the dark looking for a darted animal and of course your adrenaline is pumping and suddenly you have to pee, classic. Which brings me to; embarrassing stories with Brittni! Shaun darted a Reedbuck and the telemetry-tracking device in the dart fell off the back so we had to all jump off the truck in the dark with only our dinky head torches and start searching for it by foot. So what happens is everyone spreads out in a long line and starts sweeping the area where the reedbuck was last seen. Another student, Allison, forgot her head torch so she and I walked together and ended up really far away from the group searching in the dark. We were just joking around about how we were glad this wasn’t a big five game farm or we could be potentially walking up on a lion or a leopard when we heard this growling noise from behind the bush we were walking up on. Of course we have officially psyched ourselves out from the previous conversation and we are convinced it’s a leopard and with nobody from the group close enough to help we immediately held hands (It’s a girl thing?) and then I was like “Ok Allison we’re going to back up slowly. Don’t talk or make any sudden movements.” So we start backing up and we get super quite and we can hear what sounds like growling and helpless flailing and I look at Allison and was like “maybe it’s the Reedbuck…lets just go for it!” And we ran like hell towards the noise and sure enough there was the “Leopard” which was actually the Reedbuck we were looking for. Hahaha needless to say we felt like complete idiots.
From that farm we went back to Bundox base camp to prepare for the movement of 22 White Rhinos from one farm to another due to a high incidence of poaching on the farm where they were. There were 9 poached in the past month so the owner decided it was worth moving them. Bundox, along with three other game capture companies showed up at the farm the next morning to start the capture of the rhinos. Shaun (the veterinarian we work with) was the ground veterinarian and the other vet was the one in the helicopter darting the rhinos. That was an incredibly long day for everyone involved; Darting, dehorning and loading 18 rhinos into recovery trailers then driving them to the trucks, walking them off the recovery and into transport crates and then loading the crates onto flatbed trucks with a crane and then driving the trucks to the new location, unloading the crates off the truck again and then releasing the rhinos onto the new property, loading the crates again and coming back for more rhinos. Also; Dad and Albert you would be proud of me, I can officially hook up rhino crates on the crane by myself (See I can do manual labor when rhinos are involved, but I still struggle to mow the lawn 😉 ). It was really awesome to be able to witness such a mass movement of Rhinos, especially since it required people who usually regard each other as competition to work together for a common good. One of the rhinos that we did had a bullet entry wound on her face, which was obviously done by the poachers. Luckily the shot didn’t kill her or seriously injure her and Shaun was able to treat her wound and give her antibiotics. The last two rhinos we did were a cow and her 2 month old calf. OH MY SOUL. This baby rhino wasn’t any bigger than a full-grown sheep. I have never heard so many oohs and ahhhs in my whole life. This thing would melt the heart of a full-grown man. I got to walk the baby onto the trailer with a head rope, which was surprisingly easier than walking Moose most mornings. Someone has a video of it so look out for that on Facebook once I get home ☺ Definitely one of the highlights of my trip thus far.
The next day we came back and did the last four rhinos because it got dark the day before and we weren’t able to finish. I will never get bored with being so close to such an amazing animal. They are so gentle and they have the sweetest faces, and they make the most endearing noises. The next day we got sad news that rhino number twenty that we did the second day had been poached on the new farm. The rhino was just shot and no portion of the horn was taken. She was dehorned the day before so there was basically nothing there anyways, so they think the killing was just a screw you to the owner showing that they know he moved his rhinos and where they are now. I’m not going to lie poaching never felt as real to me as it did in that moment. When an animal I had seen alive, monitored breathing on, touched and took pictures with was shot heartlessly for no reason. Two weeks ago the number of rhinos poached in South Africa was 449, ALREADY. That is insane because in 2012, 668 rhinos were poached in South Africa. At the alarming rate of poaching this year, the numbers will far exceed last years.
That night we drove to a new farm outside Louis Trichard and we got to eat Sushi at a sketch place called Yummy Kitchen. I made it out alive and the sushi actually was pretty good. A couple days later we caught our first baby giraffe! Fact: Baby giraffes always look like they’re smiling so you can’t help but smile at how adorable they permanently look. The next two days we woke up 3:30am to catch more baby giraffes, which was incredibly tiring but incredibly worth it. With giraffes, and especially with babies, it is essential that the drugs used to sedate the animal are immediately reversed once the animal goes down because giraffes do not tolerate potent drugs well. The reversal is given directly into the jugular vein and consists of Dopram and Naltrexone. While the animal is being reversed a blindfold is taped on and cotton wool is put into the ears to help reduce the stress of transport. The baby giraffe is then carried into the back of a truck and taken to a transport truck. I have tons of pictures cuddling the baby giraffes so those will be up eventually. Prepare for cuteness overload. One of the babies tried to French kiss me, it was actually kind of awesome. Has a giraffe ever tried to go to first base with you? Nope didn’t think so.
Then we did net capture, which is where you put out a bunch of high nets and hide in the tall grass. You literally lay down flat in the grass and hide until the helicopter chases the animals into the nets and then you run and grab the animals in the net. A reedbuck ran right next to Jessie and I while we were lying in the grass and another reedbuck jumped over one of the students in the grass, it was amazing. The game capture director started betting the guys that whoever got to the animal first in the net got a 2 liter of coke, I’ve never seen guys run so fast in my life.
We also caught Nyalas on a golf course, which was quite comical. Shaun darted them out of a golf cart and then a group of 4 golf carts pursued the animal all over the golf course. Talk about hilarious. I think the guys could run faster then the golf carts and not to mention the weird looks we got from golfers. That night Jessie and I got to wake up every 2 hours to feed a week old baby lamb. That lamb was lucky he was cute because we were exhausted the next day.
Anyways that’s about all the excitement I have for now. Hope your summer has been full of giraffe make outs and leopard scares! Prayers are appreciated for my attempt to fly standby home. Right now it’s a little stressful, but hopefully I will get home effortlessly. Missing everyone at home right now!
PS: Steph, your week 10 letter was EXACTLY what I needed to read this week. Thanks for blessing me with your words of encouragement.
Therefore my heart exults, And with my song I shall thank Him.
The LORD is their strength, And He is a saving defense to His anointed.
Save Your people and bless Your inheritance; Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever.