A veterinary game capture adventure takes you behind the scenes of wildlife conservation for a hoof-and-dust escapade that will have your heart beating as fast as the animal you’ve recently helped capture. Once the animal is immobilised, the real work behind the adventure begins.

Did you know?

Wildlife drugs were first pioneered in the 1950s.

A veterinary game capture adventure is something most people only ever get to see on TV, but if you have the chance to participate in a game relocation operation or veterinary wildlife capture, as a wildlife lover, it is an opportunity you should not miss.

Whether for relocation, routine monitoring, or medical reasons, game capture is a serious business. Dr Johan Kriek, head wildlife veterinarian at Mattanu Private Game Reserve, near Kimberley in the Northern Cape, has almost 30 years experience in conservation game capture.

Kriek pioneered the darting of wildlife on private game farms in South Africa, and he oversees all game capture operations on the reserve, personally. Under his curatorship, Mattanu has bred and relocated hundreds of endangered species, including Roan and Sable antelope.

Most captures begin with the aerial tracking and darting of the animal, done by the vet, from a helicopter. If you’re extremely lucky, lightweight, and with the pilot’s permission, you may be allowed to join this part of the capture experience.

Typically, as a guest, you’ll track the animal by 4x4, an adrenaline-pumping ride as the support vehicle tears through the bush to keep pace with the (usually) fleeing patient. It’s a race against time as the animal must be tracked, brought down without injury at the point of immobilisation, and treated or relocated before the animal suffers any harm.

Animals under sedation are extremely vulnerable. As an honorary vet for the day, you can help with critical functions like monitoring body temperature, blood pressure, respiration, and keeping the animal calm and cool.

The safety of guests and animals is foremost during a veterinary game capture. An expert team first secures the capture site, before you’re allowed to approach the animal.

Any guest assistance during the procedure, such as monitoring the animal’s vital signs, or cradling the head to prevent regurgitation, are under strict supervision of the wildlife vet.

The type of operation determines how involved you can be, but you’re always fully immersed in the experience – the dust, the sounds, the urgency, and the triumph.

Even if you prefer to just observe, it’s unlikely you’ll forget being in situ with a buffalo, rhino or large antelope.

Wildlife viewing doesn’t get closer, or more rewarding, than this.

Travel tips & Planning info

Best time to visit

Between May and August, when cooler temperatures permit more capture work.

What will it cost

Costs vary between a few hundred rand to a few thousand. Much of the fee goes directly towards conservation.

What to pack

A hat, sunblock, sunglasses, cool clothes for daytime, a warm jacket for night time.

Where to stay

You'll usually stay at the reserve where the game capture work is taking place. It's an early rise.

What to eat

Winter is venison season all across South Africa.