18 Vet students chase herds of wildlife

A group of fourth-year students from the School of Veterinary Medicine spent a week at the Otjikoto Nature Reserve Educational Centre, as part of their practical training. Deep in the wild, the training emphasised the skills required to capture, transport and care for free-ranging Namibian wild animals.

Accompanying the future vets were two senior lecturers, Dr Mark Jago and Dr Ortwin Aschernborn, as well as a paraprofessional, Mr Linus Majiwa. The School, in the Faculty of Agriculture and Natural Resources, graduated its first cohort of 17 qualified veterinarians in July 2020.

From a conservation perspective

The Wildlife Clinical Studies aspect of the programme makes the 6-year course at the University of Namibia standout internationally.

Dr Jago said: “The Wildlife Clinical Studies three modular training covers interventions required in wild animal health veterinary science. This includes human-wildlife conflict, meta-population management through translocation, and actions required to reduce the risk of disease as a result of reintroduction and translocation programmes.”

“The students get exposed to direct experience when it comes to relevant aspects of capture and translocation of wildlife. Not many vet programmes worldwide cover the wildlife component in their training.”

With intervals of class sessions under camelthorn trees, students receive training in the fundamentals of physiology, pharmacology and applied pharmacology in wildlife anaesthesia. In addition, both theoretical and practical teaching in drugs used in the tranquilisation, anaesthesia and immobilisation of wild animals for their capture, transport and care.

The intricate passive and active capture systems used to capture wild animals were the highlights of the expedition.

Dr Aschenborn said: “A lot of time was spent on the design and specifications of both active and passive capture bomas, as well as the handling and welfare of animals within the boma.

He adds that students are encouraged  to identify the risks of capture and translocation  and explaining these to owners of the game, as well as quantifying the risks and planning how best to mitigate them. The education additionally includes knowledge on the game capturing regulations in Namibia, in particular those relevant to the movement of game and their products as it relates to conservation and the game industry, and the control of disease within wildlife.

Since the establishment of the School, all these activities in the wild are made possible through long-term industry partnerships and generous sponsorships.

“The week, for the most part, was facilitated by the tremendous sponsorship of B2Gold Namibia, together with Du Preez Wild, and the University’s constant support,” said Dr Jago.

“On this expedition, the intention was for the group of students to be able to experience the capture of wildebeest, zebra, impala and waterbuck.”

The capture, that took place during the week of 07 – 11 September, was carried out with permission from the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism.

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