What does a quiet month look like for the crew of Painteddog.tv? Based on the August whirlwind, I could not tell you. It seems every month we tell you how busy it has been, but August takes the cake (at least for now). With the thrill of live elephant collarings, the world’s first live lion ureterectomy, birthday celebrations, cheetah releases, and so much more, we dare you to stop reading the August newsletter.
Virtual Conservation Experiences
August was jam-packed with conservation activities.
On Saturday the 14th of August, PDTV joined forces with three conservation-based organisations, Elephants Alive, Ellie and May, and Wild Wonderful World, to broadcast what was intended to be two live elephant collarings.
Just after dawn had broken, the feed went live. Viewers who had bought tickets in aid of elephant conservation were treated to the familiar face of Brent, joined by Michelle from Wild Wonderful World and Amy from Ellie and May.
After a warm welcome from a chilly and overcast day, Ben Miller was introduced. Ben is one of the expert vets involved in the process of darting and collaring the elephants. Ben gave the viewers an outline of what was to unfold in the elephant collaring and a layman’s breakdown of the medication used to settle and subdue a bushveld giant.
The plan for the day was to collar two elephants, Andzani and Derek. Andzani is a cow with a calf of about a year old. Naturally, being a cow, she was found in a breeding herd. After darting her from the air, the task of encouraging the rest of the herd away from Andzani was given to the chopper pilot, Gerry McDonald, who, through a series of skilful moves, used the helicopter to create distance between the herd and the darted elephant.
Once Andzani was down, the team moved in to collar, collect various samples and give the elephant a quick once over. The viewers had an up-close look at how stool samples are collected from the anus and milk samples from the teat. Neither of which are for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. While collecting such samples can be enough to put one off their breakfast, they provide much enlightenment into the lives of these curious beasts. Presently, milk samples are used to analyse the nutrient value of the milk in relation to the age of the calf. Information of this kind gives people an understanding of how best to care for orphaned elephants.
Andzani woke from her medically induced slumber with a new piece of jewellery and very quickly rejoined the rest of her herd, who had not wandered very far from their herd mate.
The afternoon was dedicated to collaring Derek, an elephant bull that Elephants Alive has been monitoring for the last 3 years. The feed went live, and the viewers were greeted once more by the friendly faces of Michelle and Amy. Unfortunately, Michelle and Amy had some grim news to share, and the large, well-worn elephant collar they had with them spoke volumes about what that news might be. Derek managed to give the collaring team the slip as he had dropped his collar less than 24 hours before he was scheduled to receive an upgrade.
The good news is that Derek is still out there, needing a collar, which means you can still purchase a ticket to join his live collaring. South African residents can buy your ticket here, and non-South Africans here.
Our second mammoth Live Virtual Conservation Experience for August was the sterilisation of Bucket the lion. Many of you know and love Bucket; she is, after all, the lion with the most captivating story. Having reached sexual maturity, Bucket had reached an age where she was likely to start mating. The realities of lion population management in a fenced reserve are such that it would be unwise and unfair to introduce more lions onto Rietspruit, regardless of how cute and cuddly they are as cubs.
The feed went live with Brent and Pete Rodgers, the vet, 4×4-ing through the Lowveld thicket trying to dart Bucket. Anticipation mounts in these situations as one only has a tiny window in which to dart a wild animal, and accuracy in such situations is paramount.
Brent positioned the vehicle, and Pete pulled the trigger. The sting of the dart sent the young lioness scampering into a dry riverbed. Thankfully she didn’t move too far before she succumbed to the drugs.
Once Bucket was immobilised, it was time for the team to hoist the large cat into the vet’s car. An immobilised adult lioness is no lightweight, and moving her took extreme effort from four huffing and puffing humans.
Bucket was transported to a veterinary clinic as it was too windy to perform major surgery in the bush, the risk of infection would be too high. Dr Rogers answered questions about the procedure at the surgery while another vet, Dr Debbie, prepared Bucket for surgery.
A large incision was made in Buckets abdomen, where the surgeons could bury their hands and feel for Buckets uterus. Clips, stitches, scalpels, and clamps were all in play as Dr Debbie removed Buckets uterus and ovaries. Believe it or not, the uterus of a lion is smaller than that of a Rottweiler dog. For context, a female Rottweiler weighs about 40kgs, and a female lion weighs between 120- 160kgs. During the process, one of Bucket’s ovaries burst. A burst ovary indicates that Bucket was on the verge of coming into her first oestrus cycle. It is also the perfect way to make certain petite little Japanese presenters queasy.
Just before Dr Debbie had finished her work, a deep growl filled the room as Buckets anaesthetic began to wear out. Luckily Dr Rogers was available to administer a top-up and then another one a few minutes later. Then, with a growly Bucket convincingly asleep, the rest of the operation went smoothly.
For some post-op recovery time, Bucket was transported to her hospital ward (AKA a boma in the bush). It is vital to keep her relatively subdued post-op as the operation cut through deep muscle tissues; any strenuous activities could result in Bucket hurting herself. And let’s face it, the life of a lion is not placid.
This month, our Conservation Corner overlaps with what was discussed in the Live Conservation Experiences segment. Collaring an elephant and sterilising a lion are both events that occurred in the name of conservation. In addition to these epic events, the team also shared free-to-air live broadcasting of a cheetah release onto Rietspruit. The young, unnamed female, introduced to you last month, was transported to Rietspruit from the Pilanesburg.
To entice our spotty cat out of her boma, a scrumptious impala carcass was hauled across the ground from the boma entrance to a spot far enough away from the exit that our girl would not be tempted to drag her free meal back to the safety of her enclosure. Even though the Green Mamba, Wiums statement vehicle, made her a little hesitant, a combination of her hunger and curiosity propelled the cheetah to venture beyond the bounds of her boma and into her forever home.
Watching happy endings such as this one are so good for the nature lovers’ soul.
News from the Den
August was not one punctuated by visitors unless I’m considered a visitor, then there was one. On the 16th of August, I spent the evening catching up with the rest of my PDTV pack. After an afternoon spent visiting the hyena den, searching for mating leopards around Pridelands, and bouncing exciting plans around, we ended the evening in the most proudly South African way, with a big bonfire, a braai, and a beer (for some, wine for those with a more refined pallet). Though technically less of a visitor, and more of an honorary housemate, it was great to be surrounded by the vibrancy of the team once more.
August ended with a bang, as we celebrated the 38th birthday of our CEO and presenter, the one and only, Brent Leo-Smith. May this incredible and very necessary initiative go from strength to strength under Brent’s dynamic leadership. We wish Brent at least another 38 years of front-line conservation and wildlife broadcasting (By which time he really will have deserved the title of ‘oldest man on the bush’).
Animal World LIVE
As I’m sure you’re aware, our beloved Animal World Live YouTube series had a time change this month. Saturday nights were tremendous, but Sundays are even better, as we learnt this month.
With all the exhilaration of August, it’s no surprise that the earliest AWL was only held on the 22nd of August. The initial plan for the evening was to discuss the live elephant collaring, but since one of the guests on the panel fell ill, the focus of the evening shifted. Old hat, Brent, and the newbie, Khaya Tlou, hosted the show. Khaya didn’t waste any time exhibiting his talents, showcasing his skill by accurately mimicking the call of a Crested Barbet.
Being his debut, Khaya was made to answer some general questions that gave the viewers a taste of what Khaya brings to the team. Viewers learnt that his favourite animals include the white rhino, the spotted hyena, and the African Harrier Hawk. With this, he received the stamp of approval, and the discussion continued.
The bulk of the show was spent discussing another one of August’s live experiences, Bucket’s sterilisation. Brent explained that there are numerous ways and reasons why we sterilise lions. All with varying pros and cons. A ureterectomy was selected as the best fit in Bucket’s case. Though the procedure sounds drastic, it is deemed the least harmful in the long run. Hormonally, this is the best option if Bucket is to live out her lion life on Rietspruit Game Reserve.
As usual, viewers were taught fun trivia in amongst the fascinating conservation conversation. This time it was the origin of the word BOMA, which, we learnt, stands for British Officers Mess Area. Be honest, how many of you thought it was an African word…?
Once the pressing topics were dealt with, the two dominant males of the Pridelands den decided it was appropriate to have a roar-off. The jury is still out on whether Brent and Khaya are competing for territory or advertising themselves as a formidable coalition.
It wouldn’t have been an AWL without footage from the much-loved live cams and an exhibition of viewers’ photographic submissions. Midnight leopards, hunting lions, more lions, a pearl spotted owlet, and PENGUINS! All this, and immortalised forever, footage of a small grey mongoose stealing a penguin’s egg! The viewers’ photographic segment featured a golden orb spider, a cactus longhorn beetle, a bed at sunset in Makgadikgadi Pans, a Rietspruit cheetah, and a Rietspruit lion. All things we love to see and share with you.
The second AWL took place on the 29th of August. With guests Amy Mc Millian from Ellie and May and Michelle from Wild Wonderful World feeling healthier than the week before, it was time to discuss the live elephant collaring. Both these women are passionate about elephants. Amy is in elephant conservation as an ode to her late brother. Michelle runs an organisation that sponsors vital wildlife procedures and conservation practices.
For those who missed the live event, a short highlights clip was played. Much of the chatter centred around what insights are gleaned from a darting and collaring procedure. The primary reason we collar elephants is to determine their natural migration corridors in order to mitigate human-wildlife conflict. Currently, Elephants Alive uses collars to monitor the movements of about 200 elephants. Events such as the live collaring are crucial fundraisers as each collar only lasts about three years but costs as much as $3,000 per collar.
Of course, the elephant in the room could not be avoided, so Derek, ‘the one that got away’ was also a topic of conversation. Amy explained how, after much flying up and down in the helicopter, rubbing their eyes, and scratching their heads, the team eventually realised Derek was not where his collar said he was. Unfortunately, as murphy’s law would have it, Derek dropped his collar at midnight the night before he was due to receive a new one. So the search to find and re-collar Derek persists.
The episode of AWL ended with a quick Q&A about elephant collaring, and then the team bid the viewers goodbye.
Finally, thank you to our Pack Members and our sponsors – LedLenser SA, Rogue Outdoor Gear, Untamed Brewing Company – as well as Pridelands Conservancy and Kwenga Lodge, where you will find our ‘dog den’. And of course, to all our supporters for running with the pack.
Be sure to keep an eye on the Painteddog.tv app, as well as Painteddog.tv on YouTube, Instagram on @painteddogtv, and Facebook.
A special thanks to
A safari guide, writer and friend of the pack.
With a passion for wildlife, conservation and the written word, Victoria is the perfect person to have composing our monthly newsletter.