Don’t die!! This is the first rule when working with hippo. They are exceptionally powerful and super intelligent. Game management have been involved with re-introducing hippo onto Ohrigstad dam nature reserve as well as Loskop Dam Nature Reserve. Most of the hippo work however requires the removal of problem hippo from farms and/ or areas outside protected areas.
The safest and most effective way to catch 20 hippo from one dam. It is a slow process of building up the animals trust. We set up an electric fence completely enclosing the dam in which the hippo are residing. Basically fencing the animals in. This forces the animals to only be able to exit the water at the given places where we have allowed the fence to run further from the waters edge. The confuse animals then test every centimeter of this new boundary and seldom break out due to the wires being electrified.
This causes pressure for food, which we provide a plenty of in the for of lucern. This lucern is placed in the open area where they can exit the water. After a few days of the animals getting use to eating the lucern we start the process of erecting a capture boma. This consists of steel sections with conveyer belt attached to it. It obviously mus be extremely strong to withstand the power of a fighting angry hippo. Generally you can slowly move the lucern from outside the door of the erected boms to indide the boma itself. This usually take about two weeks to gain their trust enough to feed inside the boma. When the required amount of hippo are in the boma the door is triggered and it slides closed. This traps the animals in the boma from where we open another sliding door leading up a ramp and into a transport truck. The capture work is dona at night as this is when the animals feel most confident to come out and feed. Because of this, we now have a night vision camera system to watch the hippos movements at the boma door from a distance away and make decisions as to who or how many will be caught.
They are then moved to the specially designed MTPA hippo holding facility until the right numbers or sex ratios are collected for sale.
Danger, danger, danger! For years there was never a safe cocktail of drugs for a successful immobilisation and anesthesia for hippo. Recently however drug combinations have been refined and tested and it is possible to dart hippo successfully. Restrictions to our success include distance back to the water, as you can-not dart them close to or inside the water as they will merely drown, amount of drug you need to inject, usually have to dart them with two to three darts because of restricted drug concentrations, as well as it being an extremely difficult animal to monitor once asleep. Not to mention the physical logistics needed to move your patient once darted and sleeping.
On many an occasion Game management have received a call from farmers worried about a hippo who has accidentally fallen into the round concrete farm dam and cant get out. We then respond by lowering a crate into the dam with the hippo and tease them with a white plastic bag on the end of a stick into the crate. This method has yielded great results.
Part of the reason we have a more usable drug combination these days for the immobilisation of hippo as mentioned above is because of the extensive drug trials we have been involve in over the past few years. This provided insight into a better, more effective drug and combination of drugs for future.
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