Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Vets and Wildlife

Two days ago I returned from a month in South Africa! I went with a programme called Vets and Wildlife, where I was paired up with a wildlife veterinarian. The vet I worked with was based near Hoedspruit, which was a little town in Limpopo Province, near Kruger National Park.
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The A is where Hoespruit is.
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So on this programme, we gained a ton of experience working with various wildlife species, in particular: buffalo, sable, nyala, impala, roan and rhinocerous. We also had a bit of experience working with leopards, which was incredibly amazing! They were so fuzzy and cute when they were anaesthetised, but boy were they terrifying when they were awake! We wrestled awake buffalo calves, watched rhinos being darted from helecopters, and had a ton of fun riding around in the back of a pickup truck, bumping along the motorway and in the bushveld!

I also met a whole bunch of new and interesting people. The vet, Dr. Muller, and his assistant, Debbie, were fantastic, and taught us a lot. We also worked with a bunch of other students, and even one from our own uni (a 3rd year)! 
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Sitting on a buffalo calf to keep it still while taking blood.
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Writing down microchip numbers for a rhino - each horn is microchipped and also the rhino, in order to prevent and track poachers.
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Doing a skin scraping on a leopard at Moholoholo Rehab Centre
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Feeding an orphaned baby Eiland (Kirsty is on the right feeding an orphaned sable)
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Aside from the work, we also got to do a bunch of really fun touristy things. My favourite experiences were Tshukudu Game Lodge and Camp Jabulani.

At Tshukudu, we did a morning walk with 2 hand-reared lion cubs and a cheetah (also a dog). We arrived at 6:20am and set off while the big cats walked around with us, playing with each other and posing for pictures. Although they weren't in their "natural" setting, it was still incredible seeing these animals close up, and seeing that they really are just like giant housecats! The cheetah even purred when we pet it!

After the walk, we were served a delicious hot breakfast of eggs, bacon, fruit and porridge, and then we had a game drive. We didn't see too many animals on either the walk or the game drive, but we mostly went for the cats anyway!
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Petting a lion cub at Tshukudu Game Lodge
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Ntombe against the sunrise
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Sheila the lion cub
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Ntombe
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Petting Ntombe the cheetah
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At Camp Jabulani we went on an elephant-back safari. Again, we didn't see too many animals, but we were just happy to be riding the elephants anyway. They had such fantastic personalities - mine kept prodding my guide for more treats, and even it's baby, Mambo, kept pulling at my leg to try and get attention.
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Riding my elephant Lundi with my guide Nyasha
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Lundi's baby, Mambo
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On one afternoon we went to see Jessica the Hippo, who is the world's only tamed hippo. At first I thought this would be kind of silly, but actually it was pretty amazing to see this hippo up close, and be able to pet it and scratch it's back, since they're usually thought of as so dangerous.
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Feeding Jessica her sweet tea
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Standing next to a giant Baobab
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We also took a day to go into Kruger National Park, where we saw tons of animals and had a fantastic time.
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Rhinos with their horns! It is becoming rare to see rhinos that haven't been dehorned, which is being done to try and counteract the recent poaching problems. 
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Elephants!
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Oxpeckers sitting on a zebra's back
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A typical South African Sunset in Kruger National Park
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Because of the dryness and the dust, South Africa had gorgeous night skies
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So anyway, my trip was amazing, and I got to fulfil one of my longstanding dreams to go on a safari (and this was even better because we got to touch the animals!)

I just arrived back in Edinburgh on Sunday morning, and started into final year on Monday morning. My first rotation - ICU nights! Although I wasn't too pleased about having to spend another week away from home, I am rather glad to be getting ICU nights over with.

So far we've had a pretty good time - my group is awesome, we all work well together and no one is too quiet or too overpowering, and we're not competitive with each other. Plus in the day and a half I've had so far, I can see how much more involved we get with cases, and how much the clinicians actually explain to us, and ask us for opinions. Although I'm still nervous for certain rotations, and I'm going to have to do a ton of studying, this looks like it's going to be a pretty fun year! :)

6 comments:

Megan said...

Elliott went to Camp Jabulani when he was there too! He said it was amazing. He even got to ride the elephant that the camp was named after.

Noora said...

Hi!

I'm a Finn vetmed student in Estonia. I just started reading your blog and I love it! :) Your trip to Africa sounds amazing too, I wonder if i could also take part in something like that? I really hope to become a wild animal vet some day, and a trip like that would really mean the world to me. :) If you could tell me how to get to a program like that, i would be really thankful!

Noora

Tara Bergin said...

Hey Noora,

Sorry, I clearly don't keep up with my comments! The programme I did was called Vets & Wildlife - if you google it you should find the programme I went on along with some others they run (to India and other countries as well). Best of luck, it's definitely worth it! :)

Tara

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