Veterinarian Dr Dave Cooper, of St Lucia in KwaZulu-Natal, recently became the first person to successfully dart and immobilise the highly endangered mountain nyala (Tragelaphus buxtoni), or agazen, of Ethiopia.
The University of Addis Ababa in Ethiopia invited Dr Cooper to help a local PhD student, Anagaw Meshesha, catch 19 male and female mountain nyala in the country’s Bale Mountain region. he mountain nyala is threatened by human encroachment on its range. These particular animals, part of only about 3 000 mountain nyala left in the wild, were then fitted with satellite and VHF tracking collars to allow Meshesha to research the species’ movements and preferred habitats.
“It was an incredibly challenging exercise because we had to work at 3 200m above sea level,” said Dr Cooper. “As these nyala are accustomed to people and livestock we used horses to approach to within darting distance, and the horses were then used as cover and to balance the dart guns when darting opportunities arose.” Dr Cooper added that despite having initially suffered from altitude sickness and not being used to the heavy wind, rain and sleet of the region, he was eventually able to successfully complete the first-of-its-kind darting exercise without losing a single animal to an accidental overdose or injury. – Lloyd Phillips