PETER and LYNN TAKE DELIVERY OF a SABLE breeding group
Peter answered the phone. The heavily accented voice said
“Okay, Pieter, we is riding now. The darting went fine and the animals is loaded and they is looking good.” This call is from Jannie van Niekerk, the man who is delivering a breeding group of sable to Peter and Lynn. The local vet has darted each animal with a cocktail of drugs – an immobiliser (which is reversed once the animal is loaded) and tranquillisers, to ease the transport process and prevent the animal injuring itself in the unfamiliar surroundings within the vehicle.
This was the big day which Peter and Lynn had been preparing for. The moment had arrived when they would finally receive their first game breeding animals. Peter went over his mental checklist to make sure that he was ready. The feed bowls of teff and lucerne hay have been put near the permanent water trough. (This is where Jannie would stop to unload the sable) Temporary water troughs have been placed in the four corners of the camp, the entire fence has been checked for holes and an old rusted piece of brick-making equipment with potential to cause injury has been removed from the camp. All the bits of old wire and tin cans have been removed, two whole bakkie loads of it. Lastly Peter has reminded his workers that all their sheep dogs should be secured. Nothing worse than a dog just through the fence for getting a sable agitated, endangering itself and the dog. Yes, everything was ready.
Fifteen minutes before Jannie was due to arrive, Peter and Lynn were waiting for him at the entrance to the farm, so that they could guide him to the offloading point. Lynn was equipped with two cameras, a go-pro to be attached above the door of the game trailer and a stills camera with telephoto lens for individual shots of the arrivals.
Peter and Lynn saw dust approaching. As the vehicle neared they saw that it was indeed Jannie, his bakkie towing a game trailer. With a wave to Jannie, Peter drove forward and led the way to the sable camp. At the offloading site, Jannie turned his vehicle round so that the doors faced away from a donga in the middle distance. The sable could still have run round the vehicle towards the donga, the risk couldn’t be eliminated completely, but he was doing what he could to keep the still semi-drugged animals safe.
He left the engine running to mask his own sounds while he readied the trailer and gave Peter some instructions. In the front compartment were two heifers, in the middle compartment one, and at the back the bull. Peter was to wait for a signal from Jannie to open the sliding door between the back and the middle compartments. The bull may have injured the cow if they both ended up in the same compartment simultaneously, so the bull needed to leave the trailer before Peter opened the inter-leading door, but if he could be quick about it, the heifer was more likely to see the bull leaving, and follow. If she didn’t, if she stayed put in her compartment, Jannie would open the side door of the front compartment to release the two heifers from there, and Peter was at the same instant to open the slider between the middle and front compartments, to show the middle compartment animal that the front two leaving through the forward door, and hopefully encourage her to use this alternate route out.
“You must sommer quickly be opening the deur” Jannie instructed Peter.
Lynn had by now attached the go-pro on the roof just above the back door, facing backwards, and she herself had taken up position 50 meters away to the side behind a tree trunk, where she could be out of view but still capture the action. Jannie switched off the engine, and in the almost eerie stillness, quietly opened the back. After blinking at the light for a moment or two, the bull cautiously stepped out. Jannie immediately signaled to Peter to open his door, which he did almost noiselessly, but nothing happened, the heifer did not appear. Did she not catch sight of the bull peacefully wandering off? After waiting for about 120 seconds for her to make her move, Jannie circled the trailer and opened the side door of the front compartment. As soon as he heard the slight rumble of the front door, Peter pulled hard on his door, the one between the front and middle compartments, but stopped it noiselessly before it reached its limit. The front two stepped out into the sunshine, one a few seconds after the other.
Jannie stood quietly, waiting for the last heifer to follow, the one in the middle compartment, but nothing happened. He waited for a long time. Finally he got a long stick off the back of his bakkie and climbed up the ladder onto the roof of the trailer. He opened the access hatch. Using the pole he prodded the sable to encourage it to leave its compartment. The animal resisted his efforts.
Without trying for long, Jannie got down off the trailer and said to Peter “Can we go drink a koppie koffie?”
As they drove out in Peter’s vehicle, Jannie explained that a stroppy sable that doesn’t want to move from the vehicle is best left to itself for a while. The more you try to force it out, the more stubborn it gets, he explained.
“Sometimes you just had to use force, but that is the very last thing that a person can try. Much better to let it walk out by itself”
Sure enough, twenty minutes later when they got back to the sable camp, they saw that the last heifer had on her own decided to leave the trailer and was with the other three animals. All four of them were conducting a circuit of their camp, inspecting their new surroundings. Later when Lynn had edited the go-pro footage, they saw that the last heifer left by the back door soon after the people went for coffee.
“Thanks very much!” said Peter, extending his right hand to Jannie’s to express his heart-felt thanks.
“You did put a waterbak in every corner, ne?” asked Jannie.
“Yea sure, and I am going to feed them each 1 ½ kg of pellets per day, in addition to the lucerne and teff you see there”, indicating the feeding troughs. “That’s right, is it?”
“Ja, Pieter, dis reg.”
“Tell me Jannie, you said you sometimes have to force the animal out of the trailer – how do you do that?”
Silently Jannie walked over to his bakkie, and reaching behind the seat, drew out a cattle prodder.
“Met die ding” he said.
After a few more minutes of the usual sociable small talk, Jannie said
“Okay, I must ride now, Pieter. Come back this afternoon to check that this animals is all okay. Call me if there is anything,” With that he started up and drove off.
Spell-bound, Peter just stood looking at their new animals. "I can't believe they are really here."
“Come on you, lets go home and leave these sable by themselves so that they can settle down” said Lynn. For a moment it seemed as if Peter had not heard his wife, but then he turned and getting into their vehicle, drove from the camp.
Join Peter and Lynn in the next episode to see how their game-breeding enterprise develops.