Vet students take a walk on wild side

Student Maren Beeston helps South African vet Dr Cobus Raath (left) and Murdoch University vet students help steady a sedated rhino about to be dehorned.
Student Maren Beeston helps South African vet Dr Cobus Raath (left) and Murdoch University vet students help steady a sedated rhino about to be dehorned.

A group of 22 undergraduate students, with Conservation Medicine academics Kris Warren and Lian Yeap, visited a South African game ranch and had the chance to perform procedures on sick and injured wildlife.

‘For many of these students it was their first taste of certain clinical procedures,’ Dr Warren said.

‘Rather than working with a small dog or cat, the students assisted with catheterising a rhino or removing an ulcerated mass from a zebra.’

The students also assisted in relocating impalas, zebras and porcupines to safe reserve areas in the Mpumalanga province.

In an area where rhinoceros are killed for their valuable horn, which reaches up to $60,000 a kilogram, the students learned about the impact of poaching and how to deter would be poachers by de-horning rhinos.

South African vets Cobus Raath and Derik Venter told the group that de-horning rhinos made them less attractive to poachers, who were often poverty-stricken citizens of Mozambique.

‘When done safely, it’s no more harmful than clipping fingernails,’ Dr Warren said.

‘Now that rhinos are all but extinct in Mozambique, some poachers are working with organised crime gangs and risking a trip into South Africa, where they butcher rhinos with machetes and chainsaws.

‘This was an eye-opening experience for the students, who learned that conserving these animals isn’t as easy as it seems and with over 400 rhinos already killed by poachers in South Africa this year, it’s an urgent issue requiring urgent action.’