Working on a Game Capture Crew
by Amy Hanna
What does Game Capture mean?
Game Capture is the capturing of wildlife, commonly ungulates (hoofed animals), for the purpose of transporting them to national parks, wildlife centers, and private safari farms. Game capture helps promote the breeding of endangered and general game species to increase numbers and species diversity. Used in this way, it helps conserve the animals.
There are many reasons to move animals from one area to another. One reason is to protect the animals from being poached for their hides, meat, and body parts. These poached items are often illegally sold on the black market. If the animals are sent to national parks where they can be managed and protected, their chances for survival increase.
Another reason is to decrease the number of individuals of a certain species in one area if the population is becoming overcrowded. Too many animals creates too much stress on the group. High stress can lead to impaired immune systems, which in turn can lead to the animals becoming sick easily.
A third reason is to support ecotourism. Safari farms manage groups of animals so that people from around the world can see and appreciate the beautiful animals in their native environment. Have you heard of an African safari? A safari manager takes his or her job very seriously. He or she wants to make sure the animals are healthy. There are two ways to keep the populations as healthy as possible: (1) don’t overcrowd and (2) make sure the genetic makeup of the group is healthy by discouraging inbreeding by managing breeding individuals in the population.
Joining a Game Capture Team
In the spring of 2006, I had the pleasure of spending six weeks on a game capture team in the Eastern Cape region of South Africa (see the red area on the map in the Media Gallery). We safely caught over 200 animals in that time, including 40 impala, 40 kudu, two rhino, 20 Cape buffalo, 30 springbok, 12 gemsbok, 50 wildebeest, 20 hatebeest and three zebra. It was hard work, but very thrilling and potentially dangerous. I learned that game capture is a thriving industry that successfully conserves animal populations of many different species, many of them endangered. The companies are ensuring the diversity, health and proper management of unique African game, which we hope to save for futures to come!
On a personal level, I found out that game capturing take a lot of patience. A team has to plan its day around the weather—especially the wind. We did not want the animals to smell us. If they did, they would not move toward the trailer, no matter how well it was hidden. If the wind was going in the wrong direction, the animals would catch our scents and would run from us. One time we spent three hours building the boma and, when the wind switched directions, we had to take it down and build it all over again. We never tried to capture animals in the rain because we didn’t want to risk them slipping and splaying (this describes events when hoofed animals fall awkwardly and break their legs).
Building a Boma
A typical game capture team will spend an entire morning building a temporary structure called a boma. Team members use twelve-foot poles, wire ties and large tarps to make very long curtains in the shape of a funnel that ends at a large trailer. A helicopter pilot will then fly around the park to find the appropriate animals. Once the pilot finds them, she will herd them into the large funnel where the ground manager and workers (I was one of them) hide behind each end of the curtain ready for the animals to cross the threshold. Once the animals cross into the funnel, the ground crew follows the animals toward the trailer while closing the animals in with more curtains. The animals eventually walk into the trailer on their own!
Once the animals are safely in a trailer, they will be shipped either directly to their destination, whether it be a safari park, a national park or a wildlife center. Other times they will receive a veterinary exam. Or, if they have no immediate destination, they will go to a permanent boma which will house them until a manager finds them a home. A permanent boma is built out of wood and has many rooms, each with a door and a hallway. The trailer backs into a large doorway and the animals walk down the trailer’s ramp and into the hallway where they will be lead into separate rooms. Many times a handful of individuals can fit comfortably into one of these rooms. Often, however, males may need to be separated from the herd because they can be aggressive and dangerous.
Most of the animals I captured went to private safari parks within the Eastern Cape. Some of these parks are as large as 9000 hectares—about 22,000 acres, or more than 35 square miles!The last catch I was involved in included a family of zebra. The calf was six months old and adorable!
About the author:
Amy Hanna works at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Illinois.
Would you like to comment on this article?
View printer-friendly version