Entries in South Africa (8)


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.


South African Externship Experience

Did you know that wild dogs are such an endangered species that there are only 4 packs left in Africa, one of which is in the Kruger National Park area? I did not know this until I had the life changing experience of completing an externship in Limpopo, South Africa in August. As a DVM student, I feel that it’s vital to get the most out of your time in school, and that includes taking advantage of externships or any veterinary opportunity to learn more veterinary medicine over breaks. Here at Ross, we have 3 short breaks per year, and I decided to make the most out of my 2 week August break by experiencing the wild side of vet med in South Africa.

The biggest thing I learned is that South Africans truly care about preserving species and giving to conservation efforts. One way this showed is through the immense amount of game farms that are around the area. Driving just a few miles down the road, you’ll pass a nice handful of them. Game farm owners are able to preserve the species they have on their farm, and we got to see an amazing example of this when we visited a rhino farm to place an external fixator on the fractured limb of a white rhino. The owner was extremely passionate about saving that rhino and wanted to do all he could to preserve the species in general.

There were plenty of opportunities to see some amazing species being worked on as we followed a game veterinarian around for 2 weeks! We had chances to help capture big game such as different species of antelope (Nyala, Kudu, water buck, Roan antelope, etc.). Seven different species of antelope is what we got to see total! We also were able to witness lion relocations to different game farms and even watched TB tests be performed on animals at an animal rehabilitation center.

Besides working with amazing animals, we also got to learn how to use a dart gun from a helicopter! It was exciting to learn how dart guns are used to sedate large game animals that you have a hard time getting close to and to be able to physically shoot one (at a stationery target, of course, not an actual animal)!  We also were able to visit Kruger National Park and learn about the immense lengths they go to to protect all of their species there. The cheetah population in South Africa is increasing overall, and it was great to see that their conservations efforts were paying off. They are working hard to increase the wild dog population, since one of the packs resides in the Kruger area, but it is difficult because so many different factors play into their population decline that it is not a quick fix.

Over the 2 weeks I was in South Africa, I had the chance to see many different sides of veterinary medicine and apply my knowledge in areas such as anesthesia, pharmacology, and bacteriology. My favorite part of the trip though was the conservation medicine side of it. Being able to witness firsthand the love and passion veterinarians and people there will go to to help save animals is inspiring. This experience gave me a new outlook on the conservation side of veterinary medicine, and I hope to be able to work in that aspect of veterinary medicine in the future.

















Submitted by Catharine Vaughan from Ross University


An African Adventure

Breann Jolliffe - Ross



As the wheels to the plane finally touch ground, our pilot announces overhead, “Sorry for the abrupt turn, we had to avoid some vultures.  Welcome to Africa.  On your left are warthogs”.  At that moment, I knew this trip would be one I would never forget. 

A South African braai (barbeque) awakens our senses for our first meal.In August of 2014, a few friends and I expanded our experiences in veterinary medicine with South Africa World Vets.  This team is based out of Hoedspruit, South Africa and includes a wildlife veterinarian, a small animal veterinarian, a helicopter pilot, wildlife experts, as well as their support staff.  They were all welcoming, accommodating, knowledgeable, and had a passion for teaching.  

For two weeks, we stayed in cozy lodges on a large game reserve located near the Greater Kruger National Park.  Every night we gathered around a fire with a homemade dinner that was so delicious, I would go back for the food alone.    

 Our two-week trip lead right up to the weekend of the spring season game auction in Nelspruit, South Africa.  This auction gathers farmers who are interested in buying and selling their animals for breeding purposes.  The farmers keep detailed records of their animals including their birthdates, individual gestation periods, and even their lineages to prevent inbreeding.  This auction puts monetary value on the livelihood of these animals and therefore additionally helps conservational efforts.   Many of our experiences came from helping different farmers prepare for this event.    

This sable was sedated in order to load it onto the trailer for the auction.

Sedation and proper animal handling were used on every animal we assessed.  The type of sedative and handling technique used varied with species.  A few of the species we encountered were sable, impala, buffalo, nyala, eland, wild dogs and an elephant.  During our encounter with each species, we learned their different habits, family orders, different reactions to medications, and the characteristics desired for those at auction. 

Most of our experience came from working with the beautiful sable.  These farmers put a great deal of trust into their veterinarians, as this endangered antelope species can be worth over $1 million USD.   After the animal is sedated, we would assist by holding the head properly to prevent aspiration, check respiration rate and quality, and give intramuscular injections as needed.  We were able to confirm a few pregnancies via ultrasonography as well.  All of this was completed prior to gathering a team of 8 or more people to carry the sable in a sling to the transporting vehicle.  Once loaded, the veterinarian would give the reversal. 

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My SAWorldVets Conservation Experience

Brian Tighe, Ross University

Experiences, Honorable Mention 


Often times when a person says you’ll have the opportunity to collaborate with a multimillion dollar industry, the opportunity to take care of animals that run into the tens of thousands of dollars per individual, a lot of feelings can come rushing towards you.  Excitement at the opportunity, disbelief in the trust placed upon you, anxiety over the possibility of a single mishap ruining your entire career, but the one emotion you would never expect is complacency.   Sable antelope, Hippotragus niger, is a species of antelope found in the savannahs of Africa.  Its rarity is dependent on the subspecies, spanning the spectrum from critically endangered to least concern, but that “least concern” label didn’t happen by itself. 

The farmers of South Africa have learned what valuable assets these animals can be, allowing offers from wealthy folks all over the world to spill in to purchase them for a variety of reasons, the most being hunting.  This gave great incentive to increase their numbers.  So when this student says he grew complacent seeing these creatures, he wasn’t bored or uninterested in them.  It was the sheer fact that on any given day as he drove threw the country, visiting farm after farm, these animals were everywhere.  Ever been to Pennsylvania and seen all the white-tailed deer?  Or how about sheep in New Zealand?  Or castles in Ireland?  It was kind of like that.  By the end of the trip we had seen so many Sable antelope we stopped taking pictures of them.  And you know what other emotion that made us realize on our journey back?  Pride in the efforts of conservationists, farmers, and veterinarians who were able to take an animal who used to have such low numbers and blow them up into a common sighting.

            I was one of fourteen students who went on an excursion to South Africa to follow a wildlife veterinarian as he worked to help farmers and maintain conservation of the animal species there.  The group was called SAWorldVets and was worth every penny.  Essentially we were following him on a day to day work schedule, awakening each morning before sunrise to whatever was scheduled, lunch, going out to calls, and then finally coming back in the evening to crash around the campfire.  Luckily for us, we just so happened to arrive two weeks before a giant auction that would involve many of the farmers in the area and, of course, they all wanted their animals in top shape.

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Cage diving with great white sharks, Cape Town, South Africa

Entry, Creative Corner
Emily Pearce, Mississippi State University


Elephants holding up traffic (Kruger National Park, South Africa)