Wildlife capture has evolved enormously in the last 50 years and SANParks has been actively involved with the development with capture, translocation and holding of South African wildlife species.
The first formal “game capture unit” was established in the mid-eighties and it was based in Kruger but doing all the capture work in SANParks. Prior to this the state vets in Kruger did a lot of the capture with assistance from veterinarians doing their military deployment in the park.
In the early part of the 90’s it was recognized that there was a requirement for another “game capture” unit for parks outside Kruger. Mr Brian Beauchamp moved from Kruger to start up the southern parks “game capture” unit. Dr Pete Morkel joined in 1994 as the veterinarian in charge of this unit.
By the year 2000 both units had expanded and were working extensively in Kruger, internationally and throughout our national parks. The functioning of the units was however severely disrupted in 2001 when a number of staff from both Kruger and Southern parks game capture left (3 veterinarians in that year). In the next 2 years the units were in a lot of flux. During this period SANParks deliberately moved away from having different parks running independently from each other and in 2002 both game capture units were amalgamated into one department called Veterinary Wildlife Services and managed by Markus Hofmeyr. The name was specifically chosen to fully describe the broad involvement of the department in wildlife capture and related activities, veterinary work in SANParks and management support relating to wildlife activities. VWS reported directly the Executive Director: Conservation Services (Dr Hector Magome) from 2002-2005
The department was moved from the Conservation Services Division to a newly created division called Specialized Corporate Services (SCS) together with Air Services (AS) and Corporate Investigation Services (CIS) in 2005. The move was done to accommodate all departments that rendered support services throughout SANParks. The division is managed by Mr Ken Maggs and he reports directly to the Chief operating officer (Mr Sydney Soundy).
The functions of VWS cut across all core divisions in SANParks. We have two geographically based operations units – one in Kruger and one in Kimberley. The veterinary functions were moved into a specific veterinary unit to ensure that the veterinary functions can focus on research and clinical support rather than operational issues, which are the responsibility of the operations units. The veterinary unit is represented both in Kruger and Kimberley. The structure of the department is therefore developed to ensure that our core objectives are addressed and that responsibilities are clearly defined.
Currently the department employs 50 staff, all based in Kimberley or Kruger.