As some of the more observant may have noticed I have not been heading up the news letters for the last two months, now don’t be fooled and think this was all play and no work! The holiday did however come first, I went over to Thailand for New Year and spent three weeks on the islands. I did provide much amusement to my fellow travellers I am sure… for a Zambian a snorkel is something we fit onto a vehicle to enable us to go through deep water, hence one can stay dry, not have to wade thought crocodile infested waters and most importantly keep the water out of the air intake! A rather crucial point in our green season.

For some of us it is not natural to put your head under water and breathe! After a few moments of panic and hyperventilating I did mange to get the hang of the snorkelling and was blown away by the coral and amazing sea life. It was also good to be a tourist for a while and see things from the other side and I hope I picked up some good points! Customer service is Thailand is great and definitely the friendliness and positive attitude far out weighed any of the negative aspects. I think the Zambians are very similar in attitude and are as proud of our country as the Thais are of theirs.

Sometimes in life we have to set ourselves some personal goals and my challenge was to attend (and pass) the Chemical and Physical Restraint of Wild Animals course that is held in Zimbabwe. The reason for me wanting to qualify in this field is because Rachel, the CEO of SLCS, does an amazing job of going out and darting animals for the purpose of snare removal. In the past I have been fortunate enough to go out with Rachel but never had the knowledge to be of any great help, so hopefully the knowledge I have gained will ensure that I will be able to be of much greater assistance to her.

Going out and darting any wild animal is always a huge responsibility and there are so many factors to consider that hopefully an extra qualified person will be of use to SLCS. I still have to get registered in Zambia which is a long trail of paper work but hope to be able to donate some of my time to help SLCS for their projects in this field. There is always a great cost involved in darting any animal, the drugs are incredibly expensive, any donations towards these are always welcomed and can either come though ourselves or direct to SLCS.

To give a bit of a back ground on this course ….The Chemical and Physical restraint of wild animals course is an interactive, practical restraint training course conducted jointly by the Zimbabwe Veterinary Association Wildlife Group, South African Wildlife Veterinary Group, and Wildlife Capture Africa, on an annual basis. Veterinarians and individuals involved in the wildlife industry come from all over the globe to participate in this fantastic course and life experience. It is held on the Malilangwe Wildlife reserve, located in the south east lowveld in Zimbabwe.The course covers both theory and the practical aspects and some of the topics covered were:

· Basic physiology
· Legal considerations
· Basic pharmacology
· Immobilising drugs
· Principles of physical & chemical capture & restraint
· Handling of immobilising drugs, safety & first aid
· Species requirements
· Stress & mortality
· Basic weapon handling
· Ballistics and darting systems
· Overview of group capture methods
· Post mortem investigation

I cannot explain how intensive it was, every hour of the day was either in lectures or doing practicals. The animals we worked on this year were elephant (which had floppy trunk syndrome), lion, rhino (for the purpose of ear tagging), giraffe, zebra and impala. The part that amazed me more than anything else was the dedication of the vets and wildlife experts who were there to give lectures and share their knowledge with us.

The whole week was one huge learning curve, and I have to say sitting for exams was a shock to my system! Thank you to all those involved in this course and for the positive attitude of all involved. A special thanks to Chris Foggin, who although grilled me in the oral exams, still inspires me with his dedication to wildlife in Zimbabwe, not an easy task these times.

On my own I cannot make huge changes but with the wildlife network all doing their bit this does make a difference and I am honoured to be part of this network.

I am now back in camp and we have had a fair weathered month. Mambwe Council has released some funds to ZAWA to assist with repairing some of the worst sections of the road between Chipata and us. At this point I would suggest if you are travelling to us in March and April to use the airport short cut road – please email me if you need directions for this. Please all also do not try and attempt the Petauke Road – this is not open – please take my word for this!!!

Before we know it Easter will be upon us and I will be doing a family weekend and an Easter egg hunt in the park. It is a time of the year that my children always look forward to and they are still amazed that the Easter bunny is clever enough not to have been taken by lion! Living far away from all the commercial hype certainly helps children stay children for a lot longer and it is refreshing to see how they still believe in the Easter bunny!

I hope you all have a good month and I look forward to welcoming many of you back in camp this season as well as meeting new people
Kind regards