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Chloe Fairston

Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience ›

Country:
UK

Length of Trip:
2 weeks
Project Year:
2022

I found African Conservation Experience (ACE) incredibly helpful from the get-go. As a newly graduated vet, I wanted to travel to South Africa to work on the many species I was interested in. Upon researching all of the different organisations that supported veterinary projects out there, I just loved the freedom that ACE provided when designing my very own experience. When they described over the phone to me the Shimongwe Veterinary Experience, I loved how it sounded geared more towards a graduated vet, rather than a student, and provided hands-on experience. I was incredibly grateful they provided me with all of the details of a project that really met my needs and what I was looking for.

So I jumped on the plane! I travelled alone and didn’t know anyone here, but I couldn’t have been happier with what I had and all the people greeting me. All of the other vet students, nurses, and graduated vets that I met on the experience were such special people and it was so lovely to meet like-minded people from different corners of the earth. It was so much fun comparing the university experiences we’ve all had, the teaching experiences we’ve had, and where some people had time in practice, the knowledge that also came from that. We all benefited enormously from each other, learnt so much from one another, and hopefully will stay lifelong friends.

One of my very special experiences was with a Nyala, a type of antelope, which I had never heard of until I came to South Africa! They’re beautiful. They’re also unique because the bull and the ewe are so distinctly different in their appearance. One morning, we were doing game capture to relocate these Nyalas, as there were too many bulls in this one reserve, and the vet darted this bull – but he had gone! The sedation takes time as it’s intramuscularly, so it’s not an immediate effect. So during this time of the drug taking effect, the bull had gone into the deep, deep bush, so we had to find him quickly, as you want to reverse these sedatives as swiftly as possible, to minimise any negative effects. So the whole team of us, the volunteers, the vets, and everyone on the farm, created a line and moved parallel through the bush to find this Nyala. And it was deep bush! You had to go down onto your hands and knees at some points to get through. I was very lucky, though. I was the second person to find the Nyala bull, after the vet himself who had been dragging him through the bush as he was now fully sedated, and had been doing so for over five minutes. He was naturally exhausted, so I had the privilege of taking over! As tiring as it was, it was an amazing experience. I helped to take this bull out and onto the tracks where, after a few moments, he groggily got onto his feet and I led him by the antlers back to the trailer. We quickly treated the dark wounds and gave him parasite treatments, then reversed him and off he went in the trailer to his new home.

I’ve gained lots through this experience, and probably most importantly is the hands-on knowledge and understanding of how veterinary practices perform out in South Africa, and the difference with the different species. We all know that one species is not the same as the other – the drugs that are used, their metabolisms, even their characters are so different – but it’s been great for me as a graduate vet to gain more practical experience, as you are still very much in the learning phase. To go on a day of pregnancy diagnosing 150 cattle… that is just so much more hands-on experience which was immensely helpful, and I’ve loved every second of it. I’ve also gained experience of the culture – this was something I thought was really unique to the Shimongwe Veterinary Experience. We were taken to these amazing game lodges and beautiful farms – places you wouldn’t know to go to, and this insider knowledge really immersed me into South African culture.

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