Game capture is such a ‘wow’ thing. To be able to translocate an animal from anywhere in the country, or even the world, with minimal stress on the animal is phenomenal. But it hasn’t always been this way as game rangers and scientists in the early 60’s can tell you. The early 60’s saw the start of Operation Rhino where men such as Ian Player, Nick Steele and Dr Toni Harthoorn, to mention a few, learned all about the use of drugs on wildlife and rhinos particularly. It was an unbelievably frustrating time for these men as just when they thought they had the chemical quantities right, an animal died. The objective was to capture and translocate rhino for their own safety, and not to kill them, so when death reared its ugly head a cloud of depression hung over the Umfolozi Game Reserve. Thankfully these men were obstinate in their efforts, so giving up was not an option.
Today, thanks to people like Player, Steele and Harthoorn, game capture is a breeze – not only for rhino, but for just about any species you can think of. Prior to chemical capture excess animals were simply shot as there was no means of safely capturing and moving them. Some animals like impala were captured by hand at night using spot lights, loaded into trucks and moved. This method was suitable if the animals were to be moved close to the capture site but no good if long distances were involved as stress would often kill them. Today they are tranquilised so can be ‘crated’ almost indefinitely.
This ‘crating’ was used last week when 54 wildebeest from the Zululand Rhino Reserve were introduced onto Somkhanda Game Reserve in northern Zululand – a reserve co-managed by African Insight.
Somkhanda has a diversity of species with many more reintroduction’s planned for the near future. The reserve itself is ideal for wildlife and currently has a number of black and white rhino, leopard, giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and nyala to mention a few. Bird life is abundant and plans are being implemented to compile a Somkhanda Bird List.
African Insight’s vision for the reserve is SCIENCE ON SAFARI. We are looking for academic students to work on the reserve doing their dissertations. In this way the students will benefit by having a place to do their research and Somkhanda will benefit by gaining valuable data about the reserve. Who knows perhaps the students will find easier and less stressful ways of performing game capture?
Nigel Anderson – guide for African Insight
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Photographs by Stewart Nolan: HYPERLINK “http://www.stewartnolanphotography” http://www.stewartnolanphotography