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Giraffe rescued - operating on the wild side

Giraffe rescued - operating on the wild side

Giraffe rescued - operating on the wild side

Our veterinary correspondent gives a glimpse into work in the world of wildlife. Going after your patient with a dart gun does veer slightly from a civilised chat and controlled examination in a sterile vet clinic room - but it makes for a much more remarkable consultation. There is no such thing as a cooperative patient in the wild; trying to get a comprehensive patient history is always rather sketchy; and patience is definitely the most significant virtue.

Our varied work takes us all over this beautiful Zimbabwean country, from mass-capturing animals and lifting them from troubled areas, to one-on-one treatment, and lots in between. We recently dealt with a dystocia case in a zebra mare. It was a mal-presentation, with the stripy lady found early one morning with foal forelimbs detectable and an enormously oedematous vulva. She was exhausted when we got the call and upon our arrival was still mobile but really too fatigued to be concerned about our preparations for darting her. Upon immobilisation there were three limbs visible, two fore and a hind as well as the muzzle... alas the foal was dead. There was quite a bit of effort and energy required to extricate the foal but we eventually won and after some administered treatment, woke the mare up.

Then there was the call a few weeks ago about a giraffe with a pot on its foot... the second such case we’ve attended in as many years. Old pots and various crockery pieces are placed on widely dispersed grave sites and so completely unsuspecting animals collect the pieces as they walk over the burial sites. One size of pot apparently fits a giraffe’s foot like a shoe! Although the pot had begun cutting into the back of the foot, just above the hoof, after appropriate treatment she has made a full recovery. Wildlife post-mortem examinations (of which there are many) done in the field can leave much to be desired, depending on ambient temperature and time lapse since last breath, but finding the reason for the death is important. One particulary putrifying bleskok ewe on a baking February afternoon was a tad challenging as it was a race between the maggots, flies and us to get to what was left of the organs! We did manage to make a diagnosis and so move on with the work at hand.

Read more articles from this issue:
Zambezi Traveller (Issue 09, June 2012)

Read more about the region in our destination guide:
Harare