BLOG April 5, 2016

African Wildlife Vets & Game Capture

  • Species: Unpredictable. Mostly buffalo, antelope, occasionally rhino and giraffe.
  • Conservation Impact: Veterinary Medicine, Wildlife Management
  • Project availability: March – September

On the African Game Capture and Relocation Experience you’ll be teamed up with a South African wildlife vet who works in partnership with a large scale professional wildlife capture and service operation. You’ll be directly involved in all the elements of this fascinating profession, assisting the vet with the immobilisation and treatment of animals. The wildlife capture team service a large territory so you are likely to travel with the team to reach remote capture sites or relocate wildlife.

You will be involved in:

  • Chemical and physical immobilisation of wildlife
  • Learning about the drugs used in wildlife capture operations
  • Taking blood samples & giving injections
  • Disease testing & prevention
  • Caring for animals in quarantine
  • Treating wildlife injuries
  • Relocating wildlife
  • Wildlife population management

It is my goal to become a wildlife vet in African conservation, and undertaking work experience in this field has been extremely beneficial. It has enabled me to participate in the work that I would be doing as a vet, it was able to make contacts there, and I have learnt a great deal not only about the work but also South Africa and life in general.

Russell Kelaart

Chemical and physical immobilisation of wildlife

You will work with different approaches to wildlife capture: Specialised capture and mass capture. Specialised capture involves darting individual animals. This requires powerful tranquillisers , careful planning and great skill. You will learn about the different drugs used and the variables that the vet needs to take into account when preparing the darting. Some drugs, like M99, are highly dangerous and access to them is restricted by law in South Africa – only the vet is allowed to purchase and handle these drugs. You will, however, be very closely involved by helping locate the darted animal, monitoring its vital signs and preparing it for treatment or being moved.

In a physical capture, animals are herded through a funnel shaped net enclosure straight from the field onto purpose built trucks. In this process you might be asked to help with controlling the net curtains as the animals move past, or by being positioned on top of the trucks, where you can help with managing the animals, preventing injuries and administering sedatives.

Both types of capture are typically facilitated by helicopter. The vet often darts rhino or giraffe from the helicopter, while antelope are herded towards the capture boma by helicopter. The team includes a full time helicopter pilot, and you have an excellent chance of being treated to a short flight in the chopper in between captures!

Disease testing and prevention

The wildlife capture and veterinary team provide a comprehensive range of wildlife services to reserve owners – These include testing wildlife populations for diseases, administering vaccinations and aiding effective management of wildlife populations by either implementing contraceptives or conducting pregnancy test or insemination. Depending on your ability and experience level, you might be permitted to do injections and draw blood.

Caring for animals in quarantine

Frequently animals are kept in quarantine bomas for up to several weeks at a time before being relocated to different regions. This is necessary to ensure that the animals are free from diseases, as South Africa needs to prevent the spread of infectious diseases like bovine TB. You might be involved in caring for the quarantined animals and monitoring their health.

Treating wildlife injuries

The base camp includes a purpose built and well equipped wildlife clinic, including facilities for x-ray and ultrasound, as well as holding facilities for severely injured animals requiring monitoring. You will assist in any surgery and treatment occurring at the clinic during your placement.

Relocating wildlife

Moving wildlife between reserves can require travelling large distances. You will accompany the vet to wherever the capture work is happening. This might involve camping rough for a few nights, or you might be treated to a stay in a nice wildlife lodge – it all depends on who the client is!

Veterinary work is essential to the preservation and protection of rare and endangered species endemic to Africa. The value of this project is heightened by the relationship between the wildlife vets you will work with and the wildlife industries of southern Africa. Working specifically in the wildlife capture and relocation industry facilitates the management of healthy wildlife populations and ecosystems.

Placement Dates

The African Wildlife Vets and Capture Experience is available from March – September. During this season, you can join the programme any given week, for a duration of 2, 3 or 4 weeks and subject to availability.

Placements in 2016 run from Tuesday-Wednesday in South Africa. If you arrange your own flights, you need to arrive at Johannesburg airport by 9 am on Tuesday morning. Your placement will finish on Wednesday evening, back at Johannesburg airport.

Placements in 2017 run from Tuesday-Tuesday in South Africa, or Monday-Wednesday from London.

Placement Costs

Duration £ / Including London – Johannesburg flights £ / Excluding flights US$ / Excluding flights
2 weeks 3,100 2,250 3,390
3 weeks 3,800 2,950 4,450
4 weeks 4,375 3,50 5,360

Prices include accommodation, meals, transfers from Johannesburg airport, 24/7 support and financial contributions to the project. Prices are subject to change but will be confirmed in writing at the time of booking.

We also accept payment in EUR, CAD, AUD and ZAR. Please ask us for a quote, subject to exchange rates at the time.

You are welcome to volunteer at two or more projects during your stay. These placements are more complicated as they include travel arrangements between the projects, so please ask us for a quote for your desired project combination.

What is a “Rhino Rating”?

The “Rhino Rating” is our way of ranking a project in terms of how challenging it is – both physically and in terms of culture shock, comfort levels and skills required. Please refer to the “Rhino Ratings Explained” section for the general criteria for each rhino rating. The paragraph below explains the method behind our madness in choosing the rhino rating for this particular project.

Why does this experience have a “3 rhino” rating?

The African Game Capture and Relocation Experience is a bit more dynamic than the “Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience“. Since the supervising wildlife veterinarian works in partnership with a professional wildlife capture team you will be working in this adventurous environment. For the sake of safety you need to be able to run short distances and react quickly. You will also need to be able to climb in and out of pick-ups and wildlife trucks. The days can be long with extremely early starts. Accommodation at the base camp has the main comforts of electricity and hot water, but you might travel to different locations and spend time in far more basic camps. The base camp location is quite remote, without regular trips to any sizeable towns.


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