Essential Equipment for Veterinary Work in East Africa

Essential Equipment for Veterinary Work in East Africa

Working as a wildlife vet in Kenya conjures up images of helicopters, four-wheel-drive vehicles, capture guns and an army of field workers and anti-poaching rangers.

If fact, our veterinary advisor, Professor John E Cooper FRCVS, has a different perspective. He and his wife, Margaret E Cooper, believe in travelling light – not least because they serve as volunteers nowadays and often have to use the cramped local transport.

In John’s view, the most vital item is the right sort of hat.

Professor Cooper in East Africa

Why? First, because it protects from the tropical sun – important when working on the Equator but even more so if like John, you have very little hair left. For example, a hat made it more comfortable and safer when examining an injured hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) earlier this month in the rescue centre at Watamu Turtle Watch ( on the North Coast of Kenya.

In addition, however, the offbeat hat that John usually sports in Kenya is ideal for capturing and restraining one of Africa’s most endearing species – the white bellied African pygmy hedgehog (Atelerix albiventris). Itself, although minute compared with elephant or buffalo, is not without challenges of a prickly nature.

Professor Cooper with A hedgehog

This particular hedgehog scuttled by one evening in Diani, on the South Coast of Kenya, while the Coopers were enjoying a breezy relief from the high daily temperatures (32 degrees C – feeling like 38 degrees), trying to make internet contact with the UK (a chancy business at times) and listening to the call of bush babies (Galago crassicaudatus), Swahili Komba, in the surrounding trees.

In a flash Haith’s veterinary advisor, throwing laptop aside, leapt up, plunged the hat on top of the unsuspecting hedgehog and with a practised sleight of hand, spun it around so that the animal was on its back and appropriately restrained

Prof John Cooper doing a health check on Hedgehog

It was then a simple matter, although some prior experience of African hedgehogs is required, to grasp the prickly beast to do a basic health check and then send it on its way to forage for insects and other suitable food.

Oh, and one more thing: it also helps if you have a lawyer and a photographer in your retinue. John is lucky, his wife doubles as both.

JEC/MEC 16/03/15

PS from Margaret: It also helps when the subject (and I refer to the hedgehog, of course) is so photogenic. Thank you, little mammal, sorry to take you by surprise on your innocent evening stroll.

Written by The Coopers

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.