Game Capture Adventure in the South African Bush Part 1
The first job was during the day at a small private park in the rolling hills outside of Ballito near Durban. The mission was to capture 10 nyala. This park is set up for tourism and very serene and beautiful. It does not have any dangerous game. This first venture was definitely training for the one to follow. We set up camp at 6 a.m. We saw animals, zebra, giraffe, horses, monkeys, and buck traverse through our camp area. Most of the day was spent sitting in the heat, eating, and waiting for the capture team to return to the camp with the anesthetized nyala. At the camp, the animals would receive medicine and then be held in a trailer as the team worked to capture the remaining animals. Although extremely interesting the day was very long and repetitive. As the sun began to go down, I had the opportunity to ride on the ATV with the team responsible for buck retrieval after the animal had been darted. It was very different driving the park on the ATV versus visiting national parks like Hluhluwe–iMfolozi which have dangerous game and all body parts must stay in the car. On the ATV, the wind was in my hair, and we would come up over a hill and a wildebeest would be right in front of us or an impala would be leaping in the yard of a small beautiful stone church or a herd of giraffe would be running in unison to get out of the way or a stork would be gliding over the watering hole at sunset. So the end of the day was fun.
I am almost instantly loaded up on the ATV and in charge of holding the gun loaded with the dart. Okay, I can do this... and it should be good fun. Eric and I were off. We drove around for an hour in search of nyala. We were on the dirt track as well as tracking on the ATV in the bush. The grass was as high as my chest and small trees and bushes were loaded with huge stickers and thorns. Many of these thorns were bigger than an average index finger. As we drove through the bush, I continuously ducked to avoid a face full of thorns, although my hair seemed to have sticks and thorns all through it.
Eric soon darted our first nyala. We began to track it on the ATV, driving crazily through the bush. Then, we were off the bike. Eric set up some old fashioned antenna radio device to be able to track the animal as he thought that she probably had dropped from the anesthesia already. He turns to me and asks "Do you want to drive the bike or do you want to come with me to get the animal?" Of course, I was going with Eric. We start trudging through the thick bush to find the animal with the antenna and radio device. Eric was moving fast, and I trailed trying to avoid spider webs and thorns. We left the bike motor running as a way to find the bike again. These guys desperately need to invest in GPS devices. We see the animal. It is still up and moving. Eric grabs it by the ear and begins to run leading the animal back in the direction of the bike by the ear. Eventually, the animal drops and will not budge. Eric leaves me with the nyala holding her head up with my legs covering her eyes. The head must stay up so the animal does not choke on vomit.
It seemed like it took Eric forever to get back to me with the bike to transport the antelope back to camp. His last instructions to me were “hold the ears, and if she starts to get up, show her who is boss”. Now for those that know me...I am far from an animal person. I don't like touching dogs or being slobbered on. I enjoy them sometimes from a distance. Now, I find myself embracing this wild animal having no idea what I am doing. So, I calmly sang to her as we waited, both of us scared with hearts pounding.
Finally, Eric returns with the ATV. It is time for us to pick the animal up. She was heavy, dead weight, and I had no idea how this was going to work. Eric gave me a quick lesson how to lift her, and, next, I know she is on my lap. I have one arm propping up her neck, and the other firmly wrapped around her bottom. Eric is holding her legs since she occasionally wakes a little with a buck and a squirm. During the ride, I struggled to hold her head up, keep her from sliding off my lap, and ensure I didn’t fall off the bike. I am thinking to myself... I hope Eric knows the way back. I sure didn't. It is now a race against time, and we need to get her back before the drugs wear off. I feel relieved when we arrive back to the gang at camp.
Kaye has been traveling the world since her teens. Starting as an exchange student in Japan, she spent her twenties traveling throughout Europe. Her appetite for the exotic led her to less developed nations throughout Central & South America, where she became fluent in Spanish. Her passion for understanding other cultures led her on a three month adventure through Africa this past winter as a sole female on many a dusty road, with a backpack, a bus tickets and her tent. Kaye is also an entrepreneur and Marketing Director at OZNY Group
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