Sentient’s Vice President Dr Adele Lloyd & Public Office Matthew Lloyd travelled to Gweru, Zimbabwe this year to participate in ZimVet, a veterinary wildlife course and initiative of Worldwide Vets (WWV). As expected this course was a once in a lifetime opportunity getting hands-on ‘out in the field’ veterinary experience alongside wildlife vets and other professionals in the stunning game reserve Antelope Park. There was also the opportunity to support various animal welfare organisations as part of the “giving back” commitment of WWV.
“There were a number of interesting lectures at the start of the course not only about the animals we were likely to deal with during our stay in Zimbabwe but also about Zimbabwe itself and what Antelope Park, ALERT (African Lion and Environment Research Trust) and WWV were trying to achieve in terms of animal welfare, African wildlife conservation, and helping the human population within Zimbabwe with employment and teachings.
We were part of a team whose tasks included sedating lions that were in the ALERT conservation program to conduct vaccinations, general health checks and other procedures when necessary. Some of the more interesting cases included a mature male lion with skin disease needing skin biopsies for histopathology, a lame zebra (in which Josh Mostert and Dr Jacqueline La Grange-Mostert from African Wildlife Management & Conservation darted and were part of the team examining him) and a young wildebeest in poor condition. The darting, assessment and treatment of these animals is always time critical and required our team to achieve all of our individual tasks in the field, under time pressure and needing to be prepared for all eventualities under the close guidance of the course director Dr Gemma Campling. These tasks may be routine ordinarily but when involving African wildlife monitoring depth of anaesthesia, taking blood, faecal and/or other samples, or doing vitals can prove challenging
Other activities we were involved with included learning about tracking different African wild animals, carrying out necropsies on a wildebeest and an impala, learning how to shoot a dart gun with Dr Norman Banks (CEO of ALERT), worming and examining Antelope Park’s four rescued orphan elephants, vaccinating baby baboons, mongooses and vervet monkeys at Wildlife Orphan Rescue (run by Baye Pigors), and performing a spey clinic at the local SPCA (run by Shirley-Ann Pornss).
The predominant task for the team was vaccinating adult lions on the reserve where vaccinating a “big cat” took on a whole new meaning when having to use a ‘pole syringe’ hidden behind your back, kneeling at the fence whilst the Lion Manager Karoline Brunn or one of her carers distracted the lion, then it was with stealth and quickness of hand to jab the needle into either the shoulder or hindlimb then quickly retract the pole syringe to hide behind your back again so the lions wouldn’t become adverse to the sight of it! It was such an amazing experience being up close and personal with this great African icon.
We immersed ourselves in the life at Antelope Park as much as we could, loving hearing the 140 lions roaring and calling to each on dusk and dawn from our accommodation. This music of the African bush certainly makes sundowners on Gemma’s balcony very special - the deep throaty rumbling noise the lions made went to the very core of you and was one of the many experiences ZimVet offered that neither of us will ever forget!
This course is definitely a full, ‘get involved’ fortnight that may not suit everyone but if you have a sense of adventure and would love to get hands on with animals that most people would only see from a distance in the wild, then apply now to go on next year’s course, you wont regret it!!”