On Saturday, 5 February at 06h00, a very excited group of 3 learners, Jade Mollett, Savanna Owtram and Josh Shoebotham and 4 teachers, Zelda Talanda, Megan Best, Zakithi Mbuyisa and Howard Jacobson got together for an elephant collaring experience. A large group of about 30 people consisting of the research team, a film crew, paying guests and our group of 7, met at Selati Game Reserve’s main gate.
The collaring experience was coordinated by Selati’s General Manager Bryan Havemann, Ecologist Steve Seager and Wildlife Veterinarian Ben Muller. Savanna was fortunate enough to catch a ride in the helicopter from the Hoedspruit civil airfield with pilot Gerry McDonald.
It was not long before the helicopter took off to locate a suitable matriarch to dart, immobilize and fit the radio collar onto. The ground crew consisting of 4 vehicles, headed off to the darting site to meet up with the helicopter.
Once the 2.5 ton lactating cow was safely darted, sedated and tranquillized, we were given the signal to approach. She was lying on her side which is the ideal position for an immobilized elephant. We approached this huge pachyderm in awe and the research team began to fit her radio collar which has a 7-year battery life. Some strong men lifted her massive head so that the collar could be slid underneath and securely attached. The researchers then took blood samples and measurements.
People were milling around the cow taking photographs, listening to her loud breathing and examining her trunk, tusks, mouth, tongue, teats filled with milk, feet and tail. It was a once in a lifetime experience for many of the onlookers who will never forget this memorable elephant collaring. We were fortunate enough to catch a ride in the helicopter which was the cherry on top of an awesome morning.
Our thanks and appreciation goes to Lindsey Jones, Selati’s Operations and Marketing Manager who organized this memorable elephant collaring experience for us.