How to become a game capture officer

Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife rhino capture officer Jed Bird describes how he turned his love of Africa into a wildlife career.

Jed Bird and the team capture a black rhino.
© Em Gatland


How would you describe your role? 

My main responsibilities are to manage a team of staff and equipment used for the chemical capture of rhinos and other animals, including elephants and hyraxes. The majority of my work involves capturing rhinos as part of a team. We catch, notch (cut specific patterns into the ears of the rhino for ID purposes), treat and relocate on average 150 to 200 rhinos every year into safer reserves.

What skills do you need to do this job? 

An understanding and practical experience of catching wild animals as well as general knowledge and experience gained by living and working in the bush. I have a Diploma in Nature Conservation and Game Reserve Management. I got into this career by first working as a guide, then as a researcher and monitor of the black rhino before getting my current job.

What is the best thing about being a rhino capture officer? 

The beauty of this job is that there is no such thing as a typical day. For example, we can start off in the morning with a plan to do some routine rhino capture, but we can end up flying to another reserve to catch a calf that has been orphaned from a poaching incident. It is incredibly rewarding being at the forefront of conservation and getting involved in protecting our natural heritage.

What advice would you give to an aspiring game capture officer?

This is a large and diverse industry so try to figure out exactly what it is you want to do within the industry and stay focused on it. Get out there and gain as much experience as you can as experience in the field can often outweigh a degree or diploma when it comes to getting a job. 

How to gain experience in this field

Oceans Campus is a provider of wildlife-based practical training, internships and volunteer programs in Mossel Bay, South Africa. They offer short courses, such as approaching big game, 4x4 vehicle driving and bush survival skills and longer courses in wildlife conservation and wildlife research. 
•  Shumba experience and African Conservation Experience also offer opportunities to volunteer within game capture teams.

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