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Bisbees Conservation Journal Q2 2015

10 BISBEE’S CONSERVATION JOURNAL Q2 • 2015 Introductions were made, light snacks provided, and of course celebratory libations, a toast and a prayer – and we were off to the shooting range for instruction and practice on the dart gun by the administering vet – Dr. Patrick O’Neil D.V.M. Dr. O’Neil is considered by many to be one of the top Exotic Wildlife vets in Texas and has years of experience working with bongo, other exotics, as well as domestic game and he calmed our fears by explaining that only rarely (less than 2%) of the time was a sedation lethal and in those instances where it was lethal – it was mostly due to natural circumstances such as post sedation animal predation and terrain hazards. Dr. O’Neil, Cole Reid (Morani Chief Conservation Manager) and John Fredericks (Ranch Manager) all worked with Chip training him on the dart gun and Neudart Tranquilization equipment and stressed the importance of stalking the bongo within a maximum shooting distance of 50 yards. I was standing about ten yards away when I heard Chip say “you mean I have to be at 50 yards or less to dart this thing – that is going to be very difficult in this kind of country.” Dr. O’Neil, Reid, and Fredericks simultaneously responded “Yes – 50 MAX!” I had to laugh as I watched everyone’s brow go up – including my own. We returned to the lodge, glassed the hillsides from the valley below for a bongo herd with the targeted bongo and sat down to a fine dinner as the last of the overcast daylight was overtaken by night. 6 am did not come quickly as it usually does – I think because nobody really slept the night because the day of the hunt was finally here and the buildup of excitement and tension had been going on since at least January. After all – the stakes were very high and we were attempting to be the first in history to ever intentionally sedate a rare mountain bongo for the purpose of conservation and to hopefully set in motion a movement for the proliferation of endangered animals. Wayne looked at Chip and explained, “I hope you know that you are about to attempt to do something unprecedented – more men have walked on the surface of the moon than touched a live bongo.” I mused as the mosaic of camo patterns on all present could not hide the intensity on our faces as we waited for enough light to begin glassing for our bongo. After 30 minutes of glassing, a resolute “there he is” rang out. A wind check, available cover observation, and a committee approved stalk plan were agreed to before we made the rather long drive around the mountain to gain the right positioning to begin the stalk. Thirty minutes later we all stepped out of two very crowded jeeps onto the backside of the mountain in order to execute our plan. Wayne and I slipped quietly through the cold damp brush to find a vantage point at the top in order to glass and communicate via hand signals to the small entourage of cameramen, guides and hunter making their way around the downwind side of the valley. About 3-4 hours later and several failed stalks – we glassed Chip in stealth mode creeping his way through the dense brush. John slowly and quietly raised the shooting sticks and Chip got in position for a shot. With rifle posed he seemed to take forever on the shot? My heart sunk as I watched Chip’s head slump in disappointment. That can only mean one thing – a miss! Wayne turns to me and confirms my fears “well kids – I don’t think that went so well.” Chip later commented that he was sighted in for 50 yards and he stalked to within 35 and forgot to turn down the dart gun and shot over the bongo’s back. Twenty minutes later discouraged faces reached the top to meet our own and John encouraged us to “let the animals settle down, we’ll go down the mountain, take a break from the intensity and come up with a new battle plan.” As we ate lunch – no one talked much – concerned and distant stares met with occasional glances. continued


Bisbees Conservation Journal Q2 2015
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