Seasonal Musings
November 2022

As usual, I left it to the last minute to write an article for this newsletter, and then realised I had nothing new to add from a veterinary perspective.

So, I thought I’d pass on some things I’ve learnt in the last few months. (This is what we used to say before ‘taking some learnings’!!). Please note, I’ve just come back from a short trip to Zambia, so there will be some African references...

Elephants are very sensitive to shocks from electric fences. This is a proven way to keep them off your crops. Otherwise, mixing chilli powder and vegetable oil in a ping-pong ball and firing them at the flank of the matriarch is another humane deterrent. This causes enough skin irritation to convince her to take the herd somewhere else to graze!

The uptake of Cow wearables (collars and ear sensors) seems to be on the move. For those that have taken the plunge the benefits to both cow and farmer wellbeing are noticeable, especially around mating time. It’s exciting times alright, but remember the technology is new to us too, so be patient (especially with some of us older vets!) if we look at you blankly when shown new data.

‘Gravitational Hunting’ is a clever technique used by leopards, whereby they climb the Kigelia (Sausage) Tree and shake the branches so the fruit drops on the ground. They then hide amongst the branches and wait for impala and other antelope to be tempted under the tree, then pounce from above.

Our weather patterns are becoming more and more unpredictable, and we must be prepared for that. Herd homes and in-shed feeding will be as common as collars in the not-too-distant future.

Spotted hyena mothers usually give birth to twins. In areas where the food source is scarce, the twins will often try and take out the other sibling to improve their chances of survival. This killing of a sibling, or ‘siblicide’, will often occur in the first few weeks after birth either by direct fighting (active siblicide) or reducing the other sibling’s access to the mother’s milk (passive siblicide).

Baboons and antelope (Impala, Puku) form an unusual symbiotic relationship that turns a bit sour. During the dry months they will graze on the open plains together and help warn each other about predators. The baboons have fantastic eyesight, and the antelope have excellent sense of smell and sound. However, this relationship changes when the antelope give birth to their young. The baboon can’t resist this easy prey and start targeting the calves themselves!

We meet a 15 yearold girl who had her lower leg bitten off by a crocodile whilst cleaning her clothes in the reptile-infested river. She was forced to do that because her family doesn’t have access to a decent amount of water to do their washing in. The inspiring thing was she was just so happy to be alive. She was so grateful for everything we gave her, and I think we can all learn from that.

Yes, it’s been an extremely testing few years for us here in NZ, but we are so fortunate to live in this amazing country and we shouldn’t lose sight of that.