Game capture seems to be a common event within wildlife management. Areas that are fenced off (doesn’t matter how big they are) can only take a certain number of individuals of a certain species. Why? Well imagine all the zebras in the world confined to a single space, eventually they would eat all the grass, drink all the water, have a gazillion babies and then they would start dying because there’s nothing else to eat, nothing else to drink, nowhere else to go. It’s quite dramatic I know, but you get the picture. Important part of the habitat or reserve management is the management of animal population that can have a great impact in the whole ecosystem.
So, after this introductory talk I was invited to go along an experience a true “game capture”. The day started early with a lot of previous threats, 430am we leave, be ready or fall behind. Once we arrived, we were told to jump on top of the containers, sit, watch and learn. You don’t want to be in the middle of stampede of wildebeest, zebras, horns and hooves. We all learned from Mufasa that’s not the place to be. The idea was to capture 20 zebras, 20 gnus and some impala.
So, how does it actually work?
Somewhere in the bush a funnel like structure is created using long sheets of canvas. This structure is set a few days before the capture takes places and it’s about 50m wide at the top. Getting the animals to run in is the best part, hello helicopter and sexy bush pilots!
The entrance of the structure is technologically demarcated by a white flag (easy to see from the sky), and as the helicopter herds the animal someone runs across and closes one of the “sliding” doors of the different funnel stages, forcing animals to carry on going forwards to where the trucks are waiting. Once the zebras and gnus got on the trucks, there are magic doors on top where we stand. They get opened and using a long stick with a needle, all animals are injected with a tranquilizer for the road, making life less stressful. The downside to all this operation is that sometimes due to stress mothers abandon young ones. These type of orphans are often the ones that end up being raised by a benevolent farmer soul or get sent to a wildlife rehab center.
Zebras are… well pfff incredibly beautiful. The foals.. don’t get me started. Seeing them all together from above finally made me understand why they say that every zebra patter is as unique as a fingerprint. It’s like opening your eyes. It’s obvious, no two are alike.
Gnus or wildebeest as they are called here… aren’t as pretty. After seeing them run in a chaos of dust and horns you understand why their stampede was the one chosen in the Lion King. One starts running, then the next, the next one and it’s madness. Horns against horns, tangle of legs, horns and hooves together.
Au revoir 4 legged ones. Enjoy your new home!