After a very cold night at Journeys Inn, it was time to pack up, have breakfast, and head out. We were on our way to North West University for a lecture. We were a small group of 8 people: 7 women and 1 man. We have only known each other for one night but we already began to form a bond.
One of our main goals as a group was to try to blend in with the locals and not appear to be “typical” Americans. That goal quickly left usthe moment we saw monkeys casually roaming the campus. Immediately, we all flocked together with our phones to take pictures, definitely making us stand out from the crowd.
Once we settled in, our professor gave us a lecture on the conservation model used in South Africa and howit applies to ecotourism. From our perspective interest, one of our first questions was how hunting innocent animals could have a benefit to anyone. We saw it as a cruel and selfish act, which people partook in simply to show dominance over animals. The professor understood why we thought this way, but she explained the benefits of legal and managed hunting. To summarize her telling: hunting creates a large work industry to maintain the animals. It takes a large sum of money to be able to afford to go hunting, and that money goes straight back into conservation. Although I could never imagine myself hunting a trophy animal, I now have a better understanding of why South Africa allows and encourages it.
The rest of the day we spent on the road to Shosholoza Game Lodge, where we would spend the next couple of days. Since arriving, not only have I been jet lagged but we have been getting up around 6am each day, furthering my exhaustion. For those that know me personally know that’s definitely a big challenge for me because I love sleeping in.
Friday was the first day we got to meet and work with one of the exotic vets. Dr. James was kind and had two interns who were veterinary students from Belgium. We drove up to a local game reserve and the owner told us that one of his sable were limping and needed to be checked out. Dr.James explained to us how to safely work with wildlife animals. He emphasized speed and alertness. Once the sable was darted we rode over and assisted with keeping it still. The limp seemed to be from arthritis and all Dr. James could do was give a cortisol shot.
Afterwards, we had a lecture about the types of drugs he carried and diseases associated with each animal. Dr. James has been a wildlife vet for 6 years and told us some unbelievable stories. He very casually told us that he’s been kicked by a giraffe, bitten by a lion cub, and been in a helicopter accident. All of these stories made it clear as to why his insurance is 4 times higher than a regular vet.
In the afternoon, Dr. James did not have any clients for us to work with so we had some free time at the lodge where we were residing. Michael, our tour guide, organized a game run at the lodge. A game run is basically a drive through a large plot of land that has different animals, with the purpose of spotting as many as possible. During our drive we tried to identify as many animals as we could. One of the best parts of the drive was seeing a small herd of giraffes right in front of our truck. I never imagined being so close to such a huge and majestic animal. It had only been a few days of being in South Africa and I could not be more excited for what else we were going to experience.
After a long and successful day, we got back on the road to headed home. Unfortunately, 2 of our tires popped on the road, but Michael came to the rescue with a tire change. We all looked at the bright side of the situation and just enjoyed the sunset we were able to see.