Crazy Day at Giraffe Conservation Foundation – July 12
Well we left at 9am and had a hilarious demonstration and trial of catching and tagging a giraffe. Julian was quite funny as the giraffe and eluded most of the catchers several times.
Then we headed off up river in search of several giraffes who needed their tags replaced. We managed the first tagging before lunch.
There were a number of veterinary students along to assist from the University of Namibia. Mainly men but two women as well. After lunch we found way upriver the second giraffe that needed her tag replaced. They shoot the dart in the fore quarters. The pretty good looking doc from South Africa was a keen shot. No misses. As soon as the dart gets placed, a team heads off with a rope to try to get in front of her (they are just tagging females now) and slow her down. At times they need to do a cross over with the rope but sometimes she just stumbles and the rope restrains her and sort of controls her fall…maybe. An antidote is immediately administered so that she is not drugged for long. Then a blindfold is pulled over her face and a couple of people sit on her neck so that she can’t get the momentum to stand up. They take her temperature, check her eyes and then drill through her ossicone to place the tag. (Supposedly doesn’t hurt.). They are also trying a tail tag on some of them to experiment as to the effectiveness of each location. She generally kicks her legs out when the drilling starts…I think from the noise as opposed to any pain…I hope. Once all the various measurements are taken, the folks sitting on her neck get up one at time and she whips her head around and stands up…or so it should go.
Tinkerbell was the second tagging of the day and a little woozy after her darting. Evidently her leg fell asleep and it took her a while to get her balance.
However on the 3rd giraffe of the day, Haraka, things did not work out so well. She was darted OK and then ran towards a gully and when the morphine started working she ran down into the gully and because she was sedated, fell head first down the shallow gully that was filled with rocks. I saw the fall and it did not look good. The vet, administered the antidote in just a few minutes and her vital signs were taken. However, when the peeps got up from her neck she tried to stand and just couldn’t. She rested and tried again and rested and tried again but there was something obviously wrong with her legs. Everyone gathered around and removed the rocks around her in the hopes that this would work but she kept trying and trying to stand. It was horrible to see her so distraught.
Not looking great for Haraka
Finally Julian asked everyone to leave and just the vet and a few people stayed to monitor her.
Later, Julian came and had dinner with us at our camp and delivered the bad news. She had broken her leg. They had to put her down. A horrible end to a terrific and fruitful day. Such a beautiful and gentle creature that we’ve had to interfere with because of the encroachment and hubris of man. Goodby Haraka.
It does make one question conservation and its purpose. In one sense I feel some responsibility. Was our presence a catalyst for them to try to tag a third giraffe for the day? I mean it would be a record and the first two were exciting. Was everyone a bit full of themselves with two successful taggings? Is it absolutely necessary to track giraffe for our own research and benefit?
The giraffe is both gangly and graceful and strange. It’s not like a typical four legged animal that is lower to the ground and balanced equally on four legs. Just not sure about the need of tagging in this interfering way. I decided I didn’t want to go out the next day when they would try to tag two more giraffe. However, when they came back at noon being unsuccessful at finding Vera, I joined them for the afternoon. They were after re-tagging Elizabeth. We were perched on a small hill and could look down and see Elizabeth eluding the prowling truck back and forth as they tried to find a good place to tag her. I was cheering her on…and she did manage to escape into the bush. Relief!