Grabbing TB by the horns

2008-07-23 00:00

“Vala! Vala! Vala!” The morning sun just touches the tips of the trees in the acacia savanna veld. With a last heave and push, with thick mud clogging up the wheels of the sliding door, it closes just in time before the African buffalo, number 86, charges into it. The impact of 800 kilograms of angry muscle on steel can be felt in the pit of your stomach. The day before, the buffalo managed to scale the door of the crush, causing people, tea cups and rusks to scatter in all directions.

It is here that men wait at the door, armed with blindfolds and courage. Each buffalo is tagged and, to minimise stress, blindfolded. Sometimes the drugs take a while to take effect and one particularly fierce-looking bull is still stomping around. With much laughing and cajoling an unlucky man is pushed into the boma. He grabs the bull by the tail, but it takes a number of men a gruelling few minutes to wrestle the animal to the ground. Their faces show how much they love their job.

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