Last week, tourists alerted us to two zebras that had become entangled in poacher snares. Our Clinical Projects in One Health (CPOH) are carried out at the beautiful Kuti Wildlife Reserve, where the tourists had taken photos of the animals after viewing them earlier in the day. Using the CPOH photo log, which details the unique individual stripe patterns of each Kuti zebra to aid in identifying individuals, the images taken by the tourists allowed us to identify which zebras had snares around their necks. Using data from the photo log, we could also learn their health background and locate them with more ease.
The first zebra to be freed from a snare was a 2 to 3-year-old bachelor male. CPOH’s project manager, Hezy, and Head Veterinarian, Amanda, tracked down the zebra with help from Kuti rangers, Gilbert and Reuben, and our current vet externs. Amanda darted the animal on foot to sedate it so that the snare could be removed and health checks could be carried out.
The second zebra, known as Turnip, is a stallion of a zeal (also known as a dazzle) of three mares and two yearling colts. Hezy and the externs located Turnip, surveying the herd as they did so. They stayed with the herd for around six hours, at a distance of 150m so as not to scare him, keeping an eye on Turnip until Amanda could come and dart him.
Our vet externs were given a great opportunity to experience veterinary work out in the bush, aiding the team by monitoring respiratory rate, ensuring that no humans or animals ventured near the dart site to prevent accidental opioid exposure, collecting ticks for disease surveillance, and monitoring the zebra’s temperature. Thanks to everyone’s great work, both snares were successfully removed from the animals. The snare around Turnip’s neck had a frayed metal end which had resulted in a minor wound, but this was cleaned and antiseptic was applied to prevent infection.
Sadly, poachers pose a huge threat to wildlife. Kuti Wildlife Reserve does everything they can to provide refuge for wildlife, including deploying anti-poaching scouts to find snares in the reserve – however, they can be difficult to detect. Tourists visiting National Parks and Wildlife Reserves are encouraged to report any sightings of injured or trapped animals to help Malawi in the fight against wildlife crime.