Two old buffalo bulls decided to take up residence in a community park next to the Sprayview hotel in Victoria Falls

The dry season is the most trying time in Africa. The bush is desolate, extremely hot and dry. There’s little vegetation to eat as plants shut down in response to drought stress. Predators have a distinct advantage and species like buffalo are on high alert, irritable and short-tempered. Often they venture into town looking for grazing and in search of safe places to rest.

A couple of weeks ago, two old buffalo bulls decided to take up residence in a community park next to the Sprayview hotel in Victoria Falls town. Content with the copious amounts of green grass, they wouldn’t budge no matter the amount of “encouragement.” Huge and fierce, cape buffalo are one of the most dangerous species of large mammal in Africa. This area has high pedestrian traffic and it was just a matter of time before someone was hurt or killed.

Zimparks authorities, under pressure due to safety concerns, were considering euthanizing the buffalo and called Victoria Falls Wildlife to consult. Luckily, The Trust and professional guide Adrian Read were successful in appealing to the ZimParks area manager to give us until the end of the day to make a plan to relocate them rather.
To do this in such a short amount of time would require the community’s help.

It is easier to get closer to wildlife on horseback so Zambezi Horse Trails’ Alison Baker agreed to assist us. Tinashe Manyau’s Auto Towing very kindly lent us a truck and crane capable of lifting and transporting the two x 2,000 lb (900 kgs) animals, at no cost at all.

By noon we were all in place. Zimparks, Zambezi Horse Trails, our own Wildlife Veterinarian Chris Foggin and Conservation Manager Roger Parry, Victoria Falls Anti-Poaching Unit Scouts, African Wildlife Management and Conservation were on hand and Zimbabwe Republic Police who agreed to help to manage a rather large crowd that had developed. Professional guides Tim Ellement, Garth Adams and Adrian Read ensured the safety of the buffalo and team.

The team used the horses as cover, rather than riding them. By putting the horses between them and the wildlife, the buffalo remained calm and allowed a closer approach.

They were able to get to within 15 meters and successfully dart the two animals within seconds of each other.

When the tranquilizer had taken effect, the team used a conveyor belt to pull them behind a land cruiser towards the big tow truck.

We then carefully lifted the buffalo onto the truck with the crane and lightly strapped them both to the bed of the truck. It’s important to keep the animals on their sternum to make sure they don’t regurgitate or aspirate. The buffalo’s tongues are deliberately exposed to attach a pulse oximeter to monitor oxygen saturation and heart rate.

We drove them into the middle of the Zambezi National Park, unstrapped and carefully lowered the buffalo to the ground using the crane. Dr. Foggin and Roger Parry administered the reversal drugs and the two bulls awoke a bit bewildered and eventually walked off into the bush.

As COVID persists and tourists remain scarce, we’re seeing more and more animals coming closer to town in search of watered gardens and safety from predators. The demand for relocations like this along with snare removals, wildlife rehabilitation, and anti-poaching efforts is increasing is stretching our capacity.

We need your help.

This press release came from the team at VFWT to celebrate #GivingTuesday2020 If you are able to help the Trust in Victoria Falls or would like to find out more please visit their web site https://vicfallswildlifetrust.org/

VFWT is a great investment because your support gets immediately put to work; within hours of making a donation, meaningful conservation work is done. Just like with these buffalo, your support will help save lives.

Editor 5 VF24