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Project Quick Facts
- Species: Unpredictable - Most common species include buffalo, rhino, roan, sable, nyala, eland, bushbuck; occasionally giraffe, predators and elephants.
- Conservation Impact: Wildlife veterinary work, Wildlife management
- Project availability: Predominantly March-September, limited availability January/February & October/November
- Rhino Rating:
In one of the most wildlife prolific areas of southern Africa, the Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience offers you the opportunity to join the day to day activities of our experienced wildlife veterinarians in the field and clinic, treating and handling wildlife. Much of the work can be related to wildlife industries such as game capture and relocation, thereby maximising your exposure to surrounding reserves and the wildlife's natural habitat.
￼You are likely to:
- Participate in medical work on sick and injured wildlife
- Learn about disease control
- Take blood samples from wildlife
- Learn about veterinary drugs and their uses
- Assist in game capture and immobilisation
- Help with medical work on domesticated animals and livestock in rural South African veterinary clinics
We work with a number of veterinarians, all of whom are very well established. We will team you up with the vet who is the best match for your experience level and interests. You will join the day to day activities of the vet in the field. Wildlife veterinary work is highly unpredictable - The exact cases and species you'll get to work with depend on the work that the vet has scheduled. Common cases include work with endangered and rare antelope, southern African antelope, buffalo, giraffe, rhino and occasionally iconic species such as lion, elephant and leopard. The veterinary teams work closely with the southern African wildlife industries, enhancing your exposure to the wildlife industry in South Africa. Depending on the wildlife vet you join, veterinary work may include the following:
Veterinary procedures in the field and clinic
- All wildlife vets work in the field, in surrounding game reserves, on private land and farm land. Veterinary work in the field can often be time consuming, but incredibly rewarding, once an animal is found and treated in the vast reserves in which the vets work. Reserves vary from small private holdings to large reserves home to the 'Big 5", where the wildlife experience is extensive. You will be responsible for ensuring the animals treated are comfortable, monitoring the effect of the anaesthesia on vital signs, such as respiratory rate and heart rate. You will also be responsible for assisting in the preparation and administration of low schedule drugs.
- Veterinary procedures can range from operations in the field to working on livestock or within specific wildlife breeding facilities. Depending on the vet you are placed with, you may also be involved in wildlife and domesticated animal cases treated at the clinic.
Game capture and translocation
- Many wildlife vets work alongside the game capture industry providing the experience essential for using high schedule drugs in darting animals and being on hand for larger species movements. You will assist with the immobilisation of animals and their safe transportation when moving between reserves or to other countries for breeding programmes.
Medical work on sick and injured wildlife
- You will assist vets with the diagnosis and treatment of various injuries, conditions and diseases of animals, monitoring the animal's health and providing support to the vet.
Disease control and blood sampling
- Buffalo are very susceptible to diseases like bovine TB. You will more than likely help with taking blood samples from buffalo at some point during your placement!
Medical work on domesticated animals and livestock
- Depending on the vet you are working with, you may work within a clinic environment, treating domesticated animals and working with livestock on surrounding farms during times when there are no wildlife cases to work on. Domesticated animal work is interesting and can often be associated to the dangers of living in a bush environment, such as snake bites or attacks by baboons.
- Farming is still a main income for many locals in South Africa, and depending on the vet you are placed with, you will assist with disease control in herds, management and vaccinations.
Learn about veterinary drugs and their uses
- While working in a professional environment, vets will often give you a briefing before you go out into the field to explain the drugs that will be used or techniques and why. Medical drugs and working techniques can differ in every country and between vets. The particular use of M99 will be explained and the dangers of this drug to the human system.
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.
"Martin the ground coordinator was amazing...When I arrived at my host family's house they showed me round and were so welcoming... I felt right at home! Dr Rogers is the best vet I have ever been able to work with, he explains everything so well and lets you get really hands on so I felt like I learned so much. I got to work with 4 of the big 5!... but also saw cheetah, wild dogs, sable and golden wildebeest!"
Sophie Gates, Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience￼
I had the most incredible time with some amazing people, immersed myself in a completely different culture and worked with such extraordinary animals! Treating a black rhino’s wounds after it had been attacked by poachers was incredibly rewarding.” Emma Cooke
I feel so lucky about choosing the program then which made me meet you and work with you. The experience and everything I learned from here improved me a lot, and I will keep working hard to become a great vet in the future. I'm sure that I will be back and see you someday. Thank you so much for everything.” Shao-in Chen
This was my 3rd trip to work with Dr Rogers and it was my best one yet! We had a very busy month working with all the big 5 and lots more. Due to the horrible increase in poaching of the Rhinos, many days involved tracking, darting and micro chipping the Rhinos and there horns as well as taking DNA samples to build a database. These were long and tiring days but very exciting and worth the very early start. One of my favourite animals to work with was the lions. Although the stakeout waiting for them to take the bate could take hours, working so close with such amazing animals was a brilliant experience. We were neutering the females (tube tying), normally implants are placed that last 2 years but the reserve wanted a more permanent method. Very tricky for Dr Rogers because they are so big!” Diana Rawlins
Prices & Dates
The busiest time for wildlife vets in South Africa is the cooler season if March - September. Most vets will only accept participants during these months, but we also have a few places available from mid January - March and in October / November.
During the season, you can theoretically join a veterinary experience 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.
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- Johannesburg flights
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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 "2 rhino" rating?
The Wildlife Veterinary Experience is suitable for all levels of fitness and physical ability, but you need to bring a genuine interest for veterinary medicine and conduct yourself professionally at all times. Assisting the vets is usually not physically demanding, but days can be long and involve extremely early starts. Accommodation is with host families and provides the basic creature comforts of hot water and electricity and decent beds, although bedrooms might be shared.
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