Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Swadini, Game Capture June 27-29

"Everything in Africa bites, but the safari bug is worst of all.” -Brian Jackman (2004 Travel Writer of Year)

The next few days were spent with Andre Pienaar learning about game capture. We had a brief lecture on the importance of conservation and how game capture is a part of that. He mentions the drugs that he uses on the animals and the general dangers of the business. That evening we went to relocate a white rhino that had broken out of is his enclosure fighting with another male rhino. We tried to entice the rhino, Jangles, closer to the fence with alfalfa. We had little success and resorted to darting him. The drug would have 6-8 minutes before causing the rhino to fall over and making it more difficult for us to relocate him. When shot, he ran fast (rhinos can run up to 30 km/h) and Andre had to track him down. Unfortunately, the dart did not administer the drugs and the rhino was still awake and alert 20 minutes later. We would have to try again the next morning. This time they darted him from a helicopter which made it easy to keep track of where he ran to. Soon after the rhino slowed down and started to wobble. We ran out to him, blind folded him with a towel and tied a rope around this head and back leg. Our plan was to walk him across the fence line. The rope on his back leg was to be used as a brake and the one on his head extended out to his left and right to steer him. All 6,000 lbs of rhino were pulling against us as he stumbled forward. When we had him across the fence, we walked him in circles until his balance was lost and he fell over. Jangles had many wounds that needed cleaning so while half of us held him so he didn’t completely roll over, the others scrubbed him down. We ministered a bottle and a half of penicillin to prevent infection and double checked every inch of his skin. It was time for us to stand him up and let him go. It took 11 girls on one side and 4 large men on the other to rock the rhino until we managed enough momentum to stand him up. When standing the rhino almost retreated back across the fence line and it took expert steering to prevent it.Andre began to untie him, gave the antidote and told us to run in the other direction in case he turned back at us.

Once the fence was repaired we were on our way to a game ranch to remove some giraffes. A trap (called a boma) made out of tarp was already set up. It was shaped like an ice cream cone with the skinny end at the truck door and the fat end

toward the rest of the ranch. The boma was split into several sections with tarps being used as curtains and in the skinny part, actual wood was used as doors. The area between the doors had metal siding outside of the tarp. It was built high enough so the giraffes would (hopefully) not see over it because a giraffe will not go somewhere if it doesn’t see a destination. Our group of girls was split between the two doors and was given the instructions to pull the rope when commanded. The ropes, depending on what side you were on, either opened the doors or shut them. I was on the door closest to the truck, which was also next to a barbed wire fence. We were warned that an organized chaos would ensue once the giraffes reached the boma, but we were not prepared for what actually happened. A helicopter flew around the area and rounded up the giraffes until they were in the opening of the boma. It started to use sirens and whistles to warn the crew that they were coming. As the animals drew nearer the curtains furthest away were being closed and it started to get loud with voices. We heard a bunch of yelling in Afrikaans and some indistinguishable English and weren’t sure if that meant to pull or not. We turned to the other rope and saw that there were no longer only two people on it, but five or six. The yelling got louder and Andre’s workers started to climb the sides of the metal walls and tied ropes to the posts to pull them closer together. The giraffes were kicking the sides with little mercy. My partner and I weren’t sure if that was what they meant by “organized chaos” or if this was just as out of control as we thought. Unfortunately, the sides of the boma were not high enough, so the giraffes were able to see which direction freedom was. After a particularly loud kick against the metal we heard “Girls RUN!”. My partner and I dropped the rope and started to run toward the trees. Next to the barbed wire fence we found one of Andre’s boys trying to climb out, so we grabbed him and took him with us. The giraffes had torn the side of the boma and had their shoulders over the metal wall. With enough force they would be freed and running blindly into a crowd of people. Our guide told us to get on the other side of the fence which required crossing a small path of obstacles right next to the metal wall. I ran with the boy in my arms and while stepping over a log the fence caught my pants and we fell. Before I knew what was happening we were being picked up and brought out of the way. They allowed one of the doors to be opened to save the side of the boma and since they couldn’t get past the curtains. When it started to calm down and reinforcements were placed against the walls we were allowed to go back to our stations on the rope. After some more threatening kicks from the giraffes we successfully moved them into the truck. Game capture was most certainly my favorite part of the trip!


  1. Sharon- That is an amazing story! Wow. So glad you or the boy were not hurt. That is a story that will last a lifetime.

  2. Just to inform all reading this "amazing" story. Andre Pienaar is a paramedic and not a veterinarian. It is ILLEGAL for a non-veterinarian to immobilise any animal (which is anaesthesia) OR treat any animal. He is ILLEGALY performing veterinary procedures under the flag of "conservation". The veterinarian who was supplying the immobilisation drugs to him has been found GUILTY by the South African Veterinary Council of illegally dispensing highly scheduled drugs. Schedule 5 and 6 drugs can NOT be prescribed as it is anaesthetic drugs. Please think twice before supporting illegal operators. It is the law and by participating you become an accomplice.