Anticipation was running high this morning as the group woke up earlier than normal to prepare for a surprise which had been sprung the night before. Just before supper on Wednesday evening Dr William Fowlds, a local wildlife veterinarian, arrived at Woodbury Tented Camp with his two assistants, Annie and Candice. The new arrivals called the students into the dining room for an announcement……
Thursday would be rhino darting day!
The looks on the student’s faces was priceless as the reality of the announcement sunk in. Dr Fowlds explained that two white rhinos in a nearby game reserve needed to be darted and treated, and that the Dalhousie African Wildlife Ecology course would be involved in the procedures.
Team rhino darting departed from Woodbury Tented Camp at 06:30 and were in position, waiting for the helicopter and the vet, by 08:00. Soon after, Dr Fowlds gave a final briefing about what the students would be doing and some important safety information. After the briefing, the students climbed onto the vehicles and the helicopter and vet took off in search of the two pachyderms. It wasn’t long before we received the call that the two rhinos, a male and a female, had been located and were about to be darted. As soon as the darts were in, the ground crew moved closer, awaiting the go-ahead to start processing the animals. We watched from a distance as the anesthetic took effect and the two prehistoric beasts swooned and eventually went to ground.
Team “Simone” were first off the vehicles and set to work monitoring the female rhino’s vital signs as the vets and management staff did their work. The male rhino was a little reluctant to go to sleep, so team “Jason” had a slightly longer wait until they had their chance to get their hands on one of these magnificent animals. However, once both of the thick-skinned creatures were safely anesthetized, both student teams worked away, following the instructions of the vets on hand and even managed to have their pictures taken in the process.
The entire procedure lasted a little over an hour and the excitement was still running high as we all sat safely on the vehicles, watching the two rhinos rouse from their slumber. Dr Fowlds debriefed the group before we departed to enjoy lunch at a local farm stall en route back to Amakhala.
The afternoon was spent catching up on journal time, analyzing project data, and re-setting the small mammal traps for Ashley and Eilish’s independent projects. To cap off a great day, the group enjoyed a braai (the local term for a BBQ) with the sun setting in the background and the jackal howling……