Conference provides impetus for faculty's wildlife drive

Posted on March 22, 2017


The recent wildlife conference, jointly presented by the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Pretoria (UP) and the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) Wildlife Group was an early highlight on the Faculty's calendar for 2017 and brought together a wide range of expertise in wildlife from across the world.

The conference provided an international platform for researchers and veterinarians to present their knowledge and experience and to facilitate a valuable learning and networking opportunity for veterinarians and scientists with an interest in wildlife management. Attendees were welcomed by the Dean of the Faculty Prof Darrell Abernethy, the president of the South African Veterinary Association (SAVA) Dr Johan Marais, and the Chairman of the SAVA Wildlife Group Dr Greg Simpson, who also made a few introductory comments to set the tone for an exciting conference.

The four-day conference was divided into four themes: rhino and elephant conservation medicine, people and wildlife, wildlife diseases and nutrition, and applied clinical practice. The event also made provision for pre-conference and post-conference workshops. Coordinated by Vetlink and sponsored by Wildlife Pharmaceuticals SA and V-Tech, the conference afforded attendees the opportunity to earn 24+ Continuing Professional Development (CPD) points. Abstracts of pre-selected oral and poster presentations representing papers, case studies and research results reviewing recent advances of interest to wildlife were published for the event.

Each theme covered a wide range of topics and experts from studies across the world (including India, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Qatar, the Kruger National Park and the rest of South Africa and Africa) shared their experience and research findings. The SAVA Wildlife Group's annual general meeting was held on the third day of the conference. Faculty researchers and academics were not only well represented but formed the core of the attendees at the conference and had the opportunity to present their studies and findings pertaining to wildlife research and management to a global audience.

The pre-conference and post-conference workshops provided excellent opportunities to those who wanted to be out in the field, put their skills to the test or observe practical demonstrations. Highlights of the event include a workshop on critical monitoring during chemical immobilisation presented by Prof Leith Meyer, which covered aspects related to critical monitoring of immobilised wildlife and included presentations, discussions and a wet lab in the field; a field trip to ear-notch and collect DNA samples from white rhinos as part of the Dinokeng game reserve's rhino management plan, presented by Dr Jacques O'Dell;  a workshop on carnivore immobilisation, anaesthesia and nutrition presented by Dr Adrian Tordiffe, with a practical demonstration on a lion and a hyena; and a forensic necropsy workshop by Dr Johan Steyl, discussing the basic forensic principles of performing a necropsy on a wild animal during a physical demonstration. Finally, there was also the unique opportunity for a few privileged delegates who booked in advance to join an experienced game ranger in the Dinokeng game reserve to track a wild, free-ranging cheetah on foot. Several cheetahs in the reserve are collared with GPS/VHF collars as part of research and management. The challenge was to find a cheetah's recent location via GPS and then head out to the field to locate the cheetah with VHF/telemetry.


- Author Chris van Blerk

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