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Phinda Wildlife Research Project: 28 November - 12 December 2023*
Upon my arrival to South Africa, I honestly had no idea what to expect. I was met in the airport by ACE team members who were very nice and excited to see me.
Transport to my placement was by road and it was about a five-hour drive out into the middle of the South African bushveld. I was truly in the middle of nowhere. When I first arrived to my placement, all my fears and worries were gone. The property I stayed at was owned by a busy wildlife services veterinary team. I stayed in small student lodges that could sleep four. They were extremely nice, newly renovated, and had a tiled bathroom! Also, there was a lodge that had a bar, projector, tables, and a pool.
The work I was involved with could be divided into two categories. The first would be working directly with the vet and his wife, both of whom were extremely nice, caring, and extremely fun to be around. I found that at the end of my stay we had become very close friends. A typical day with the vet and my volunteer buddies would be driving out to a farm to help treat any animals that could be suffering from a variety of ailments. During my time, we darted a lot of sable, and I was also able to see some nyala, sheep, tzezebe, and buffalo. During these experiences I was able to administer vaccinations and help aid in other treatments like ultrasound and horn capping.
The other category of work I was involved with was with the vet and the wildlife capture team. Working with the capture team was probably the most fun I had. We would drive out to various farms and would basically transport large numbers of animals at one time.
Some days we would be transporting buffalo to various camps, and so the vet would go up in the helicopter and dart the buffalo from the air. We would then chase down the buffalo by truck and transport them out of that camp and into another. This was truly exhilarating. I was also able to help with something called mass capture. This entailed building a temporary corral and herding by helicopter the various antelope species into the corral. Once the antelope made it into the corral, we would then herd them by foot into transportation trucks to move the animals out of the farm and into a new one.
Overall, my one month stay in South Africa was incredible and I will never forget the experiences I had. The people I worked with were amazing. The animals I worked with were awe-inspiring. This is something I would love to do again in the future.