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Thread: Veterinary work in Zimbabwe

  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...

    || Being vetty with Temba the lion, 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...

    || Being vetty with Temba the lion, Zimbabwe 07/13 ||


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









    The beauty of Zimbabwe...















    More to follow...

    || Being vetty with Temba the lion, 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...

    || Being vetty with Temba the lion, 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...

    || Being vetty with Temba the lion, 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!

    || Being vetty with Temba the lion, Zimbabwe 07/13 ||


  8. #8
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    We did see and treat a few other species, including a beautiful hornbill that had sadly lost a foot to a snare:



    And a zebra that was losing condition:




    And finally, we did get some time to be tourists - and what did we do with it? Spend some more time messing around with animals, of course! We spent a little down time taking an elephant ride, which was kindly given to us free of charge by one of the parks we were working at.









    And that's the lot! If you have facebook, you can check out my entire album on there, although be aware that there are a few pics in there of the pangolin post mortem and other clinical procedures. I feel like I've offered a very whistle stop tour of the whole thing - like I said, once I've done my report I'll put it up to give you a better overview of the work we did and the things we saw - but in the meantime if you have any questions then don't hesitate to ask!

    Hope you've all enjoyed!

    || Being vetty with Temba the lion, Zimbabwe 07/13 ||


  9. #9
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    What an amazing working adventure - something that I'm sure very few future vets ever get to experience. All of your pictures tell an incredible story.

    When you get to be Dr Miss Z", what do you plan to specialize in, or haven't you thought that far ahead yet? My granddaughter who is your age, is going to be a DR too - only she will be a psychologist. She will be in her senior year in college in the Fall, then the next year to grad school for her Masters, then on for her PhD. You young women have so much going for you - just incredible! Congratulations on your determination and strong will, and going out and getting what is so important to you. You rock...
    I've Been Boo'd
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    Now is the only time you have, so live it with a will -
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  10. #10
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    These are amazing! I keep scrolling up and down to look at them over and over!

    Does dehorning a rhinoceros make the rhino less vulnerable to poaching, Miss Z? Can they manage without their horns? And seeing to the over-population of lions, I wonder how long it will be until they know if these efforts are paying off and the number of lions becomes more manageable. I love big cats. And oh, those lion cubs - precious! Thank you for the kudu picture, what a beautiful creature! We had a kudu at the Brookfield Zoo for awhile as a guest from another zoo. They were restoring their facility, which gave us a chance to see and learn more about the kudu while he was there.
    Yikes! I've been Boo'd ... right off of the stage!
    Aaahh, I have been defrosted! Thank you, Bonny and Asiel!
    Brrrr, I've been Frosted! Thank you, Asiel and Pomtzu!


    "That's the power of kittens (and puppies too, of course): They can reduce us to quivering masses of Jell-O in about two seconds flat and make us like it. Good thing they don't have opposable thumbs or they'd surely have taken over the world by now." -- Paul Lukas

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  11. #11
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    "Trip of a Lifetime!" My jaw dropped reading the intro of what you did for the trip, then to see the photos -- AMAZING! What great experience for you and Yasmin.

    Congrats on your graduation, hooray!

    Can you please pm me your FB link I am not 'friends' w/ you on there and I'd love to see more photos. Wait, I will send you mine to keep things moving . . . .

  12. #12
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    Thanks everyone for the lovely comments!

    Karen - it was indeed so special. There's still part of me that can't quite get over it all. And you are quite right - their eyesight is poor but their hearing and sense of smell are very sharp.

    Quote Originally Posted by pomtzu

    When you get to be
    Dr Miss Z", what do you plan to specialize in, or haven't you thought that far ahead yet? My granddaughter who is your age, is going to be a DR too - only she will be a psychologist. She will be in her senior year in college in the Fall, then the next year to grad school for her Masters, then on for her PhD. You young women have so much going for you - just incredible! Congratulations on your determination and strong will, and going out and getting what is so important to you. You rock...
    Unfortunately, I probably won't ever get to be Dr Miss Z! UK vets don't qualify with a 'Dr' as part of the package, unless they take an MVetMed I think, or of course a PhD. Rather silly, I know. It's a very sore point between us and human doctors. Good luck to your granddaughter - it sounds like she has everything so well mapped out! I remember you posting a picture of her once, and she is so beautiful and successful. I haven't entirely decided what I want to commit to, although I have ruled out equine-only and small animal-only practice. I definitely want to be involved with farm animals, so I could see myself starting out in mixed practice, then maybe moving on to either European specialisation, or taking the plunge and moving out to Africa down the wildlife route as I have experienced here. No doubt I'll change my mind a lot but I'm happy to let life take me where I need to go for now!

    Quote Originally Posted by cassiesmom
    Does dehorning a rhinoceros make the rhino less vulnerable to poaching, Miss Z? Can they manage without their horns? And seeing to the over-population of lions, I wonder how long it will be until they know if these efforts are paying off and the number of lions becomes more manageable.
    It does something to help but sadly does not eliminate the possibility. Firstly, Zimbabwean law dictates that parks cannot advertise that their rhino are dehorned, which would ideally put poachers off even bothering in the first place. Once a poacher has tracked and found a dehorned rhino, he may well kill it anyway to prevent him from tracking the same animal again. There have also been some instances where dehorned rhino have still been targeted, as the very base of the horn contains a rich blood supply and so is rarely removed during the dehorning process. Even this short stub can be sold on the black market. It's all very sad as the horn is made from the same material and our hair and fingernails and has no therapeutic effect whatsoever. Yet some silly (shall we say, masculinely challenged...) individuals believe it gives them 'enhancing' properties, and so the senseless slaughter continues. It'll only truly stop when the demand ceases, but the dehorning combined with park ranger vigilance is going a little way to protecting these animals. As for the lions, hopefully the effect will be relatively soon. It does seem rather counter-intuitive to be contracepting them when the wild population is dwindling, but as yet there appears to be very few suitable facilities for breeding programmes for wild release in Zimbabwe. Hopefully that will no longer be the case in the future.

    || Being vetty with Temba the lion, Zimbabwe 07/13 ||


  13. #13
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    Thank you so much for sharing your amazing experience with us. (Amazing doesn't seem to be the right word, but I just can't think of an adjective that accurately describes my feelings in seeing your pictures and reading your text.)

    Time helps the sadness subside, but the memories remain forever.

  14. #14
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    Amazing! Thank you so much. God bless you.

    Congratulations on achieving your BSc with first class honours!

    I meant," said Ipslore bitterly, "what is there in this world that truly makes living worthwhile?"
    Death thought about it.
    "Cats," he said eventually. "Cats are nice."

    -- Terry Pratchett, Sourcery

  15. #15
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    Thank you for sharing your grand adventure with us! I always love seeing your photos and reading about your trips. This one was amazing!!



    I will miss you forever, my sweet Scooter Bug. You were my best friend. 9/21/1995 - 1/23/2010
    Goodbye, Oreo. 4/17/2003 - 9/12/2011. Gone too soon.

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