After months and months of planning and meetings and organisation, the capture day finally arrives. Every last thing has been considered and prepared for. The sedatives are sorted and ready. The curtains are hung. The team are all in their correct places. The radios are switched on. The mobiles are switched off. The helicopter takes off. The team has this one chance with the targeted herds of animals. If they are spooked, if something goes wrong, the whole operation can be called off. So, working as a team is essential. After all it is a highly unpredictable environment.
The helicopter herds the animals towards the capture site and the waiting crew. The animals bunch together, running this way and that to escape the noise of the rotors. But the pilot, John Bassi, is highly skilled, directing the animals towards the area of the veld where there are more trees, where the capture team is waiting.
Once the animals are past the first curtain, or main gate, a siren from the helicopter signals and the waiting crew close the curtains by running along the cable. The curtain system prevents the animals from running out of the boma once they realise the area is getting smaller and the escape route more difficult. This is the most hectic part of the whole operation, and though it only lasts about half an hour, it is the most dangerous part. The helicopter guides the animals, necessarily swinging up and down, sometimes so low to the ground that the team has to duck out of its way. Lourens directs the ground crew through the use of radio instructions and whistles. Some of the crew need to run towards stray animals, arms in the air, pieces of scrub in their hands, to ensure the animals stick with the group. At times a zebra or wildebeest comes so close the teams have to duck and hide in the bushes for safety.
All the time the camera crew are weaving in and out, trying to get the best of the action, the close-ups, the shots that will really tell the translocation story at board meetings in the future, which will help to pull in the passion and funding to continue the success story of rewilding Africa.
By the time the final curtain is closed, the animals have been funnelled into a safe, enclosed space, where they can catch their breath before being guided into the waiting truck.
Meanwhile, 1250 km away, the Peace Parks’ team works with their partners in Zinave making the final preparations for the arrival of the new animals. Everything must be ready so that each animal can safely step off the truck into its new haven.
Keep watching PeaceParks.TV to see what happens next…
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