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Accommodation donation for Kruger’s Veterinary Wildlife Services

Date: 2006-09-04

Monday the 28th of August, 2006 was a special day for the Veterinary Wildlife Services (VWS) in Kruger National Park.  It was a day that accommodation in Skukuza Staff Village was handed over to the park by the donor Thubelisha Homes in a deal brokered by the Honorary Rangers VWS National Project.

The donation had special significance because it was forged through the perseverance and dedication of Honorary Ranger Wrio Denny, who was tragically murdered earlier this year.  His 2 children Pia and Justin were part of the dignitaries who came for the handover, along with several of the Thubelisha management, some Honorary Rangers and SANParks’ staff.

Wrio engaged with Kruger’s VWS staff to ascertain how best they as Honorary Rangers could continue to assist the unit.  The need for readily available accommodation to house people helping out at the game capture bomas was prioritised.  Wrio had to endure much patience in seeing the process through to fruition and it is so sad that he was not alive to be part of the handover but so apt his 2 children were there to fill his void.

It was important to give an insight to the people from Thubelisha Homes on how Veterinary Wildlife Services operate for them to gain an appreciation of the value of their donation to SANParks’ ability to manage our fauna.  Thus the handover was tied into a rhino capture.

Through Kruger VWS stalwart Johan Malan’s coordination everyone met at the VWS offices at 06h00 and most set off in convoy for the designated capture site in Mpondo Dam area.  They were soon joined by the park helicopter with vet Peter Buss and Thubelisha CEO Kevin Duncan and wife on board.  The chopper’s occupants soon located an appropriate family group for the capture and after a slight snag with the initial sedation, the first animal came to stand-still.  The chopper directed the ground crew to the precise location and in they went to do their thing.

For readers not familiar with the rigours of capturing game, it is a complex process where great care has to be taken to ensure the well-being of the animals.  Marius Kruger, Markus Hofmeyr and the rest of Kruger’s VWS team are supremely efficient in all they do.  Everyone has a role and they all come together under intense time pressure.  Once the animals are sedated, steps to ensure their comfort such as covering their eyes with a towel and cooling their bodies with water spraying are imperative.  The veterinary squad has to conduct all the necessary tests and measurements on the animal.  Then the process of getting the animals safely into their transport crates has to be done.  In the case of larger animals such as rhino they have to be induced out of complete sedation to be guided into the crate through a combination of ropes, electro prodders and many hands.  Once in the crate, the mobile crane on the truck hoists the crate off the ground and into position on top of the truck.  The animals have to be frequently monitored for signs of stress and damage infliction in the confined space.

All the above takes place in rapid succession and a short time later 4 rhino were safely loaded in crates on the transport trucks and heading off to the bomas at Skukuza.

The group then reconvened at 15h00 at the site of the new accommodation.  Here they were joined by park director Dr Mkhize and several other senior staff members.  Head of Veterinary Wildlife Services Markus Hofmeyr, Thubelisha’s Kevin Duncan, Honorary Ranger Ockert Van Niekerk and Dr Mkhize all said a few words before the keys to the doors of the 2 units were tried and the units officially opened.  Kevin Duncan explained that this is Thubelisha’s first charity work in the conservation realm, but he assured everyone it would not be their last.  Up until now, most of their charity work has revolved around women in construction.  Dr Mkhize on the other hand paid special homage to the ongoing support of the Honorary Rangers.

When the time came and Dr Mkhize officially opened the units, there was an emotional tribute inside.  On the wall of the living room of the unit was a memorial plaque in honour of Wrio Denny.

The units are comfortable and fully equipped with ablutions, kitchen, living room and 2 bedrooms.  They are expressly for the use of person’s manning the capture bomas in Skukuza and will be used by SANParks staff, veterinary students and Honorary Rangers.  The value of the two units is R250 000, 00.  Thubelisha Homes specialize in low budget housing but had to adapt their normal product to meet the precise requirements set down by the Kruger technical services division.  The accommodation will make a considerable difference to the running of the bomas as housing much needed helping hands has always stifled assistance.

Link to photos at