Now that my pathology test is over, you can all thank @vetschoolandotherthings for reminding me to get onto finally doing this post!
You may remember that I spent two weeks in Chintsa, South Africa over June/July this year. I was doing the Safari4UVet programme, which got me involved in a range of volunteer vet activities in the area, as well as getting to see and treat some amazing wildlife! These are just a few of the photos my group took, hopefully giving you a taster of what we were doing.
One of the major components of the programme is their community projects. In a few different areas, students and staff go out to provide veterinary care to people who couldn’t otherwise afford it. We spent a fair bit of time dipping dogs to treat for ticks, fleas, and other ectoparasites, and we dewormed any puppies we came across. We also helped with cattle, chickens, and goats, again deworming them for local farmers. We also got to work with a whole bunch of horses, and practice our lameness exams on two very sore horses.
The programme was also affiliated with the local clinic (Wild Coast Vets) so we got to spend some time in there as well! It runs as a normal clinic, so people who can pay for it do. But, with the help of Safari4U, they also have some community outreach they’re working on. The main thing they’re doing is desexing of the Chintsa dogs to help reduce the population and disease transmission. We got to follow one of these cases the whole way through one day, including doing drug calculations, administering drugs, and anaesthetic and post-op monitoring.
Then, the bit everyone wants to hear about, the wildlife! We were involved in two captures: a giraffe (in the pictures above) and three blesbok (antelopes). These were pretty exciting because the wild animals don’t always make things easy for you. For the giraffe alone we had to basically dig out a new path because the giraffe wouldn’t cross the stream bed we needed it to, so we had to take the trailer to it. Then the trailer wouldn’t fit across the bridge, so they had to dig out the bank to allow the truck to go through the stream bed and around the bridge. Giraffes are also tricky to sedate, so they had to time it very carefully, and then the whole way to its new location we had to watch in case it went down in the trailer and needed the last little bit of its sedation reversed to save its life. The blesbok were a little more straightforward, and after the giraffe this capture was so fast it was over in the blink of an eye.
We also got to do some medicine with wildlife. There was one wildebeest on a nearby game reserve that had a large abscess just proximal to its elbow that needed draining, so that had to be sedated, cleaned out, and then reversed all in quick succession. A big part of that was keeping the rest of the herd away from it, because the moment it went down the rest of them were beating it up because it was weak. That was an awesome experience because we were applying the same wound management principles we’ve seen on dogs and cats to a wild animal. Safari4U also works with the East London Zoo. This, to put it lightly, isn’t a great zoo. So the programme is working on helping them to improve, and also gets us to see any animal health interventions going on. The first day we were there we went around doing basic health checks, and improved the porcupine enclosure by softening their sand, moving in new logs, and providing novel scents (ours). We returned later in our trip to see the sedation of two wolves (pictured above) where one was thought to need a dental (it didn’t in the end, but it was still cool) and in the other they were investigating a lameness. Overall this was a great way to get up close and personal with some amazing animals in a really unique environment!
Weekends on the programme you get to do what you want, so we spent our time at local game reserves so that we’d get to see even more animals (because what else do vet students do when one of the options is go see cool animals????). The highlight was definitely the Inkwenkwezi game reserve. We spent two nights/3 days there and had the most awesome time. Paired with a ranger who went above and beyond the call of duty, we got to see and amazing range of animals, kayak down the river to the sea, quad bike around the park, and feed elephants! They also have glorious glamping style accommodation and the food is to die for.
If you’re looking for a unique, vet-y holiday, check Safari4U out! We went as vet students, but their main clients are American pre-vets, so whether you’re in vet or just trying to get in, give it a go! The people were great about fitting your schedule to what you wanted to do and what you need to see, so whatever your stage you’re bound to have a great time. I’d be happy to tell anyone anything else they want to know, just flick me a message!