Vets on the wild side

Ze­bras, li­ons and ele­phants among the pa­tients

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - JAN CRONJE

THE DI­REC­TOR of a lo­cally- filmed doc­u­men­tary se­ries about stu­dent vets at an an­i­mal clinic bor­der­ing the Kruger Na­tional Park says he hopes the show will in­spire a new gen­er­a­tion to take up this “no­ble pro­fes­sion”.

Fron­tier Vets is a 13-episode se­ries set to air on SABC from next Satur­day.

It fol­lows six stu­dents from On­der­stepoort, the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria’s fac­ulty of ve­teri­nary science, along with two stu­dents from the US and Ger­many, as they work for a month at an an­i­mal clinic in the small town of Hlu­vukani, Mpumalanga un­der the watch­ful eye of res­i­dent vet Dr Greg Simp­son.

Here their pa­tients are not only cats, dogs and cat­tle, but ev­ery­thing from ze­bras and li­ons to ele­phants.

“South Africa is short of vets in cer­tain ar­eas, ru­ral ar­eas such as Hlu­vukani in par­tic­u­lar,” said se­ries di­rec­tor and pro­ducer Jonty Ac­ton.

Simp­son said he hoped South Africans would find the se­ries both “ed­u­ca­tional and en­ter­tain­ing”.

“There is a great need to stim­u­late in­ter­est in the pro­fes­sion in all cul­tures in our coun­try,” he said.

Ac­ton said that while the life of a vet could be emo­tion­ally tough and even “soul-de­stroy­ing at times’ it was also “in­cred­i­bly re­ward­ing”.

“The young men and women who choose this pro­fes­sion are, in my mind, he­roes,” he said.

He said the idea for a doc­u­men­tary se­ries about lo­cal vets was Simp­son’s, a friend of his from school.

“He knew that I was in the film busi­ness and look­ing to de­velop new projects.”

The Hlu­vukani An­i­mal Clinic, which opened in 2008, is satel­lite train­ing clinic of the ve­teri­nary fac­ulty of the Univer­sity of Pre­to­ria.

Stu­dents from On­der­stepoort do prac­ti­cal ro­ta­tions at the clinic, after six years of study.

They usu­ally study at the clinic for two weeks, but this was in­creased to four for film­ing pur­poses.

Fron­tier Vets was filmed not only in Hlu­vukani near the west­ern edge of the Kru- ger Na­tional Park, but in the world-fa­mous park it­self and pri­vate game re­serves in the area.

“What made the idea so strong for Dr Greg was how much these stu­dents learnt in their time at the clinic, not just about vet science, but about them­selves,” said Ac­ton.

“This isn’t your typ­i­cal re­al­ity show clichéd (with) win or lose sce­nar­ios. Its about dis­cov­er­ing what kind of vets they want to be­come, and in the process what kind of peo­ple they are.”

While the show will make its de­but on South African TV next week, it has al­ready been shown in Spain, Greece, Rus­sia, Brunei and Thai­land.

Fron­tier Vets is on SABC3 from next Satur­day at 11.30am.

A stu­dent vet gets to grips with a ze­bra dur­ing the film­ing of Fron­tier Vets, a lo­cal 13-episode doc­u­men­tary se­ries set at an an­i­mal clinic near the Kruger Na­tional Park.

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