Transporting wild animals over long distances is a tricky exercise, with no guarantee that the animals will survive the experience. So, it is essential that only experts with experience in the field come together to plan and carry out such operations. South Africa’s conservation success is now contributing to rewilding Mozambique, as Peace Parks works alongside South African National Parks (SANParks), a world leader in conservation, and others to ensure a positive outcome. Careful planning by veterinarians like SANParks’ Lufuno Netshitavhadulu is needed to ensure that the animals’ welfare is uppermost in the operation. Lufuno has years of experience in handling wild animals, often dealing with routine snare removal or treating bullet-wounds in wounded animals. However, translocations are an important part of conservation in Africa, with rewilding gaining global recognition as a critical step in restoring health to our natural environments, and the transportation element of the operation is as important to get right as the capture. The trucks will travel across long distances, rough terrain and even through small towns.
It is easy to forget that these zebra and wildebeest are wild animals, unused to being confined, so travelling in a truck for many hours makes them become aggressive and panicked, and they can hurt each other or themselves. To minimise to risk of them injuring each other, they are loaded in such a way that they cannot kick or bite the one next to them. Animals are also sedated before departure and en-route by injecting them with tranquilisers to lower their stress levels. On the odd occasion that an animal does not calm down it is released back into the wild. The selected animals are handled with care and the trucks are sealed to maximise disease control.
One of the risks of animal translocation is that various diseases can be spread from one region to another with wildlife being reservoirs of diseases. Despite translocation being a managed method to augment populations of wildlife elsewhere, the movement of pathogens due to translocations has gone largely unchecked. Here, Peace Parks Foundation and partners ensure that animals are brought in from disease-free areas or, in the case of a buffalo or hyena translocation, screened before release into Zinave National Park.
State veterinarians on both sides of the operation ensure that only the designated animals move across the border. Permits issued by the government are checked and double-checked to ensure that no tampering of the trucks takes place between capture and release points.
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