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IVEC Summer Study Abroad 2019

By Kylie Zehner, Purdue University

To start off the summer after my first year of veterinary school at Purdue, I spent two weeks in the western cape of South Africa on a reserve called Hartenbos. I participated in a wildlife medicine and conservation program where we learned about the animals native to South Africa, different capture methods, reasons for capture and transportation, the different drugs, vitamins, and preventatives used on wildlife, and much more. We were led by Hein Schoeman, who is an extremely knowledgeable and experienced wildlife conservationist.

Day one was spent getting familiar with the area we were staying on, which included a safari tour of the reserve and my very first ride in a helicopter. We also spent time in our first lecture series, which took place in the classroom that is on the reserve. Each one of us students received a wildlife medicine textbook that we got to keep and take back to the United States with us, which was extremely helpful for studying purposes and learning more in depth about each topic we were lectured on.

By day two we were already taking part in the craziness of a sable and roan antelope capture in the Karoo, a desert about two hours away from our reserve. Since we hadn’t even had a capture method lecture yet, we were learning as we went. I got to watch Dr. Burger, their lead veterinarian, scope out the correct animals to be sedated and dart them with opioids that enabled us to work with the wild animals. We learned so much just on that first mission because we had to be alert and actively involved. With eleven of us students in the program at the time, we divided into two teams and that enabled each team to be responsible for administering different medicines to different animals. By the end of the program, we were all experts on dosing the different vitamins and preventatives, as well as properly administering them to each animal, whether that be subcutaneous or intramuscular. We had to learn to dose the medications by estimating the weight of the animal and using the concentration of each medicine to quickly calculate the correct dose. This could be quite difficult at times since the range of the animals is so drastic. For example, springbok weigh around 40 kilograms and the eland weigh over 1000 kilograms. Luckily, Hein has a better eye for estimating weights due to his many years of working with these animals and always ensured we were on the right track.

The remainder of our trip was much like those first two days. Everything was very weather dependent and wildlife captures tended to be spontaneous, so we did those when we had the chance and fit in lectures when we could. In total, we ended up working with springbok, eland, roan antelope, kudu, zebra, a cheetah, and sables. One of my favorite captures of the entire trip took place right on the reserve where we stayed. It was our first net gun capture with springbok and it was one of the most exhilarating, chaotic, and unique experiences I have ever been part of. There are almost no words to describe the way I felt standing in the back of Hein’s truck watching the helicopter fly overhead after a herd of springbok while Dr. Burger shot a net from the back seat directly on top of one of the small ruminants. As soon as an animal is captured under a net, we were pedal to the metal in that truck to get to the animal and safely restrain it. It is such a thrill that I hope I get to relive someday.

In just two short weeks, I learned an enormous amount of information about wildlife capture and medicine, which was pretty much novel to me. Even more than that, though, I made some amazing friendships and got to experience the South African culture and explore places I never knew existed. It was the trip of a lifetime and I am forever grateful. Thank you SAVMA and IVEC for helping me get through this journey.


Students being lectured in the classroom by Hein Schoeman (standing up front) about wildlife medicine and capture. Purdue students caring for a sick baby giraffe that was found motherless. We were responsible for taking his heart rate and respiratory rate while trying to stay huddled around to keep the animal warm and bring his body temperature back to normal. (I am in the white headband with stethoscope measuring the pulse)








Restraining a springbok during a successful capture and transport. This was taken on that first day in the Karoo. Us students are getting a short lecture on what is about to happen during the capture and transport that is to come by Dr. Burger.









Me petting a wild cheetah while under sedation. We spent two hours tracking her down on her reserve so we could replace her GPS tracking collar, which had stopped working properly. Transporting the still sedated cheetah on a gurney back onto the mountain side. Her collar had been successfully replaced at this point and they were ready to administer the agonist drugs to reverse her sedation state.












Ayane the giraffe interacting with the students during our safari adventure on the Hartenbos reserve. Ayane was rescued as an abandoned baby and raised by Hein Schoeman and his family so she is extremely quaint with humans and loves to interact. Me petting Ayane as she approached our vehicle on the reserve







Me administering vitamins to an eland after it had been darted with sedatives and was getting ready to be loaded up for transport to another reserve. Purdue students riding in the back of Hein’s truck while the helicopter flew overhead during a netgun capture mission.

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