Whoever coined the phrase “never a dull moment” must have had an inkling about what life in a wildlife department is like! The African bushveld is a constantly shifting kaleidoscope of animal and plant interactions which, on a reserve such as Thanda Safari, requires ongoing proactive management.
An average day can include monitoring endangered species – sometimes an uphill battle (literally!) when one of your cheetahs decides to behave like a leopard – clearing areas encroached by sickle bush, analysing camera trap photos and GPS mapping alien invasive prickly pear. Then, just when everything seems to be going smoothly and you finally sit down to have that much-needed cup of coffee, the radio crackles into life informing you of a possible fire on the reserve. Downing just one quick mouthful of coffee as you head out the door to help the team prepare, you are back to all systems go.
Aside from these more ‘typical’ days, we also have days dedicated to very specific conservation projects. One such recent undertaking was the ear-notching of a three-year-old hook-lipped (black) rhino. The sponsorship that facilitated this specific activity was received from Nkombe Rhino – a South African non-profit organisation that focusses on the protection of endangered species in Southern Africa (http://nkomberhino.org/).
To be able to notch a rhino, the rhino has to be immobilized from a helicopter after which the ground crew – comprising our wildlife team and in this case, the sponsors – move in to ensure the safety and comfort of the rhino whilst the vet notches the ears. After the notches are done, the rhino is then given an antidote to enable it to regain consciousness. Each rhino is given a unique ear notch number which enables us to correctly identify different individuals on the reserve and thus monitor their well-being. At the same time, we take a skin and hair sample for DNA analysis and entry into RhODIS®. “RhODIS® (Rhino DNA Index System) is a project that was initiated by the Veterinary Genetics Laboratory of the University of Pretoria in order to help with the plight of the rhinos. The Veterinary Genetics Laboratory is collecting DNA samples of rhinos across the country to create a database using the unique DNA profile of individual rhinos. The goal is for all rhinos to be on the system, which will help deter poachers and assist in forensic prosecutions.” (https://erhodis.org/)
So, whether it is an average day at the ‘office’, or an extraordinary one participating in a hands-on rhino protection initiative, believe me, there is never a dull moment in a wildlife department!
Lorraine Doyle – Wildlife Manager