Cuba helped Namibia during the fight for independence, and because of that, the Namibian government has decided to give back to Cuba as a thank you for the help. No, they are not sending flowers, money, wine or other gifts, they are sending wild animals! The government first told Cuba that they could get animals that were already in captivity, like the animals at CCF, Harnas and Africat. These animals have lived and will live their whole lives in a cage, so it won't be any difference for these animals. They are already not living the life they were born to live. Since these foundations is American backed (sponsors etc) and Cuba and America has a difficult history, Cuba doesn't want these animals. Cuba want wild ones! So the government has then decided to give Cuba animals from Etosha. I think it's really horrible. The government is spending millions on this project, millions that they could have spent on something else! But the government has made a decition and the people that work for the government has to do what the government say. The plane ticket for these animals is already paid for, the isolate facility they are making in Etosha is under construction and the vet team has started the capturing. The animals are leaving for Cuba, and there is nothing we can do about it.
Even though I'm not supporting this project, I'm still interested in how they are going to make this happen. How they are going to capture all these animals and also about the veterinary medicine part of this. So me and Gottfriedt joined the vet team out for capturing two evenings in a row. The first evening we went quite many people. The goal was to capture jackals and lions. Cuba wants a certain amount of males and females, and they want the animals to be as young as possible. The first animal the vet darted was a jackal. It was lying in the back of the vet's car when my car arrived. It was just so beautiful. Unfortunately, the Cubans were not happy. The jackal was too old, so they wanted another one. The vet asked me to stay with the jackal to check that it was ok, while they went out to dart another jackal. One team also went out to try to find lions. I was left with the Cuban vet (who couldn't speak English) and a Namibian worker. I checked that the jackal was breathing and I listened to it's heart with my stethoscope. It was so cool to finally be able to use my veterinary nurse skills! The jackal had very bad teeth and it had a fracture in one of its front legs, poor little one.
After a while, the vet came back with another jackal. This one was younger and looked more healthy. The vet and the Cubans decided that they wanted to release the old one back into the wild again, which I thought was really nice of them. The vet gave both the jackals the wake-up injection, before him and the rest of the team drove away again to see how the lion capturing was going. The young jackal woke up quickly from the anaesthetics, but the old one was still sleeping. I was a little worried because it was starting to get colder outside, and when an animal is under anaesthetics the body temperature drops, and I didn't want the jackal to be even colder. We tried to make sounds and shake the cage for it to wake up, but it was still fast a sleep.
It started to get darker, so the Cuban vet, the Namibian worker and I decided to drive after the others. The old jackal still hadn't woken up by the anaesthetics, but was still breathing well. We wanted to find the vet and tell him about the situation. The car that was left with us only had two seats, and the Namibian worker said we all had to sit inside the car to be safe from getting attacked by any animals in the park. It made sense, so I jumped inside the car and sat on top of the hand brake, between the seats in the car. It was quite little space for all of us, so I tried to make my self as small as possible. It was really uncomfortable, but hey...this is Africa!
We drove a little while before we saw the cars of the rest of the team. They were standing still and they had their big lights pointing to the ground in front of them. I could see some movements, but I couldn't tell what it was. When we came closer I could see her. A beautiful lioness, trying to eat from the oryx that were killed for the capturing. She was stressed and unsure of what to do, and she moved further and further away from the lights and the cars. It was late now, and it was really dark so the team decided to finish for the day, and only bring the jackals back to the facility.
It was a bumpy ride home, and my butt was really sore when we finally stopped at Okaukuejo. Etosha's vet and the cuban vet went to the facility to put the young jackal in a cage and to give the old one another wake-up injection before they released him. It was really cool to have experienced something that tourist don't get to experience, and it was interesting to see a glimpse of how it's like to be a wild life vet!
The next evening, the team wanted to find hyenas, so we drove out to a place in the park where hyenas had been observed. It was dark and cold, and I was so hungry. On our way I saw 5 white owls sitting all together on a stone. They are just amazing creatures, and I felt really lucky to have seen them.
We sat in the car waiting for the hyenas to come. The team had put the oryx from yesterday down on the ground in front of the cars, and the vet was playing the sound of a hurt animal on speakers, to attract the hyenas. After a long time, the first hyena came. It was walking quite close to the car and it was really cool to see it. The hyena started to eat the oryx and soon after, more of them came. At one point there were four hyenas eating. I could see that the vet was preparing the anaesthetics, and when the time was right he darted on of the hyenas. Unfortunately, he missed it. The hyenas ran away from the oryx, and we had to sit and wait until they came back again. We had little space in the car, and it was really uncomfortable to not be able to stretch out my legs, but we had to just sit and wait. Luckily, the smell and taste of the oryx was clearly hard to stay away from, so after a while, the hyenas came back. The vet tried to dart one again, and this time he got it. Now the challenge was to get to the hyena without being attacked by the other ones. So all the cars drove together towards the darted hyena, and was placed around it in a circle. Then a few of the men went out of the car to pick up the hyena and placed it in one of the cars, while the others were looking out for the other hyenas. It was cool to see how the team did this, and also how much they took care of each other and how they respected the power of the African predators.
When the hyena was caught, we all drove back to the predator facility to put it in a cage there. It was big and beautiful. The vet and one of the Cubans discussed which gender the hyena was, and they told me it's very difficult to separate the two sexes from each other because the female hyena also has testes and phallus! I thought that was really interesting!
Me and Gottfriedt was really hungry and tired, so we decided not to join the team as they wanted to go out and catch another hyena. I was glad we had joined and I thought it was an interesting experience, even though I'm sad that these animals can't live a wild life in Etosha.