'The less interference the better?'
Light-bulb moment of an alumnus | Annemieke Muller
‘Before I left to work in Africa, I was under the impression that in large nature reserves, you can let nature take its course, and a balance will emerge automatically. The less interference, the better. I was wrong. Because in today’s climate of sustainably conserving wild plant and animal species for the future, active management is an absolute necessity. So wildlife management plays a crucial role in maintaining fenced wildlife reserves, which applies to most reserves in South Africa, regardless of how big the reserve is. Two animal species that require intensive management are elephants, because of the high impact on vegetation, and lions, because of rapid reproduction and prey pressure. In the nature reserve where I work, both lions and elephants were reintroduced in 2018. Our first step in responsible management was to introduce the right number of animals, considering population growth in subsequent years. That’s why we use advanced veterinary developments. For example, a large proportion of elephant females receive contraception. This temporarily active drug can be infused via a dart shot from a helicopter and ensures that ovulated eggs cannot be fertilised. Lion females undergo surgical removal of one of their uterine horns. These interventions aim to prevent an irreversible negative spiral in the natural balance and instead achieve ecological sustainability. I have learned that it is crucial to responsibly try to maintain the natural balance of ecosystems. The underlying aim is to keep the diversity of plant and animal communities intact in the long term.’
Annemieke Muller (MSc Veterinary Medicine, 2011) emigrated for her PhD at the University of Western Australia. Her fieldwork took place in Lapalala Wilderness, South Africa. Here, she studied the reproduction of white rhinos in the wild. Since 2015, she has been working as Veterinary & Research Manager in Lapalala.