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Thread: Veterinary work in Zimbabwe

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  1. #1
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    Veterinary work in Zimbabwe

    Hello everyone!

    I can't even remember exactly when I was last here - this year of vet school has been manic from start to finish. Since September of last year, I've been busy working towards both my preclinical vetmed exams whilst finishing off my BSc, which included working in a lab for over 6 months between studies and writing a dissertation, so had very little time for myself, let alone time to do everyone's threads and posts justice. That is of course the way a vet course goes, but I'm glad to say that I now have a relatively quiet summer to catch up with you all. I graduated on Thursday with my BSc with first class honours, which made all the hard work thankfully worth it! I now have three more years of clinical studies left before I'm a qualified vet. Scary, I know!

    As a halfway treat, my flatmate (who is also a vet student) and I decided we would undertake some veterinary volunteer work abroad. We returned on Monday from a fortnight in Zimbabwe, and had the experience of a lifetime.

    We worked with AWARE Trust Zimbabwe - please do check out both their website and their facebook page. They are the most amazing charity run by two incredible vets whom I feel truly privileged to have learned from. We primarily worked in anti-poaching dehorning operations of white rhino and contraceptive implants in captive lions, but indeed ended up seeing and working with a whole plethora of African wildlife and exploring this amazing and very misunderstood country. Not many vet students can say that they started learning the clinical ropes on such magnificent creatures!

    I'm sure many of you have already seen some of the obscene amount of photos on facebook! I'm also working on a comprehensive write-up of my experiences, so I won't reiterate too much of it here, but will link it when it's done.

    Here's a small selection of the pictures for your enjoyment!

    Firstly - some snapshots of assorted wildlife taken in National Parks and sanctuaries:

    Kudu - possibly the most beautiful antelope on the planet




    Vervet monkey scouting the joint, no doubt looking for some food to steal!


    Trumpeter hornbill that visited us every morning in Kyle National Park


    Giraffe


    Sable


    Cheetah... and her names was Mercedes!


    More to follow...

    Zimbabwe 07/13


  2. #2
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    Ostrich - this is is Mrs Ozzy and she deemed Yasmin (my flatmate) and I worthy of her attention!





    This is a baby bushbuck rescued at a wildlife sanctuary. He was being very cute til he started using his teeth...

    This unusual creature is a pangolin - an anteater-like creature covered in large scales. This one, sadly, was dead and being measured as part of a post mortem - although we were incredibly lucky later on to see a wild one (unfortunately didn't have my camera on me at the time)


    Moving on to the rhino work. We were assisting mainly in the monitoring of the rhino's vital signs as it was anaesthetised. The horn was removed from the animal by the vets using a chainsaw. These operations had to be slick and quick, as rhino are poor ventilators under anaesthetic, so we students had to learn fast how to work effectively as part of the team. It wasn't all plain sailing - we had to sprint to one individual across the bush in full boiler suits under the glare of the African sun in one instance, and in another had the car rammed by an angry mother rhino when we tried to separate her from her darted calf (I'll try to get the video up later!), but it was in the end a successful operation and one that will hopefully protect these stunning creatures from an awful fate at the hands of illegal poachers.

    The team assembled, complete with helicopter


    The student team! (Myself on the far left with Yasmin next to me)


    The operation:




    Yup... taking the temperature! Students get all the lovely jobs, naturally


    More to follow...

    Zimbabwe 07/13


  3. #3
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    The finished product - rhino up and looking healthy:









    The beauty of Zimbabwe...















    More to follow...

    Zimbabwe 07/13


  4. #4
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    Those are amazing photo, I know there's more to come! So cool to be able to work on the actual animals we usually only see in books and wildlife spiels! I will admit I have fed apple chunks to a rhino - but that was in San Diego, at the Wild Animal Park, and their eye sight is as bad as we have been told, I'd have the apple in me hand, and get slimed halfway up my arm in its attempt to get it!
    I've Been Frosted

  5. #5
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    Moving on to lion work. This was the main bulk of our work and I don't think I'll ever truly get over how awe-inspring it is to get to interact with these iconic animals. Despite there being fewer than 500 wild lions in Zimbabwe, captive lions are becoming increasingly overpopulated in parks that have often have outdated housing systems and cannot cope with a large volume of cubs, therefore compromising their welfare. Hence we set about implanting lionesses with a contraceptive device, as well as administering all of our patients with rabies vaccine and giving overall health checks and other minor treatments. Yasmin and I started out with lots of theoretical experience, but virtually no clinical skills, but by the end of the fortnight, thanks to the incredible support (and patience!) of the vets, we were working effectively entirely independently with our own lions, from darting them ourselves right through to giving the reversal drug. I still can't stop grinning when I think about it!













    Some lions aren't so fierce! (although most would indeed rip your face off )






    Still more coming...

    Zimbabwe 07/13


  6. #6
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    Because everyone wants to put a hat on a lion



    This lioness was a handful - once she was darted she proceeded to find the highest point she could and fell under up there. Fortunately she didn't fall despite the team being ready to catch her, but she did end up having to be precariously lowered down so she could be treated!




    Who can resist... LION CUBS!









    More coming...

    Zimbabwe 07/13


  7. #7
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    Three slightly clinical pics now - scroll past them quick if you don't want to see. Nothing major, just a smidgen of blood. I just had to include them as these are evidence of the times I managed to hit veins on my own (I was rubbish to start with!!)
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    Jugular - for blood sample collection





    The saphenous in the hind leg - for injecting the reversal drug Yohimbine



    Darting the lions - this was incredibly exciting! After hearing how much the darts themselves cost should we lose one, or should a lion eat one, I'm glad that I turned out to be a good shot





    We didn't need to knock out all of the lions we were treating, so some received their rabies vaccination via pole syringe. This was a heck of a lot more difficult than it looked. Firstly the lion must be distracted from the massive, glinting pole looming in its direction, then the needle must be applied quickly and forcefully, but not so forcefully as to break the needle, and then rapidly pulled out before one very angry lion can get it first!






    Once we were competent, we couldn't resist the obligatory THIS-IS-ME-WITH-A-LION type photos!




    More coming!

    Zimbabwe 07/13


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