Remembering Etosha’s first vet

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Text by Simeon Ebedes

It is with my deepest sorrow to inform everybody of the passing of my beloved father Dr Hymie Ebedes, the renowned wildlife veterinarian, on 24 November 2015 in Pretoria.

I will attempt to reflect on this amazing man’s life in a few paragraphs.

Dr Hymie Ebedes, was born in Ermelo, South Africa on 14 June 1936, he always joked that is was a cold morning. He graduated from The University of Pretoria veterinary faculty at Ondersteport in 1959. From 1959 to 1964 he had a private veterinary practice in Springs, South Africa.

In 1965 he started his remarkable career in wildlife as the first biologist/veterinarian in the Etosha National Park Namibia. During his tenure there he pioneered the use of Tranquilizers to capture wild African animals, he also identified Anthrax in Etosha and established the protocols to identify the disease and control it’s spread.

Dad always said that the native Bushmen blamed him for bringing Anthrax to Etosha. Another highlight was writing the manual for translocation of Black Rhino and the first ever in Namibia to trans-locate wild caught animals by air; such as a herd of Black Faced Impala from the Kaokoveld to the Etosha National Park. His groundbreaking research is still being used in Zoos and wildlife reserves across the world, Just Google “Ebedes” and any African animal, be ready to be amazed.

Hym, as he liked to be called, moved from Etosha to Stellenbosch where he was the State Veterinarian from 1975 to 1980. His passion for wildlife attracted him to the National Zoological Gardens in Pretoria where he furthered his research to humanely care for animals as Chief of Veterinary Services from 1981 to 1989. During this time he was a key contributor to the book, still in print, on the Capture and Care of Wild Animals. His groundbreaking research on the use of long acting tranquilizers for wild caught animals has saved tens of thousands of animals lives, this research limited the high mortality of wild caught animals by minimizing their stress.

After 9 years at the Zoo he was appointed Wildlife Specialist with the department of Agriculture in Pretoria 1989 to 1995, where he wrote the code for SABS for the Capture, Care and Translocation of Wild African animals. This included the guidelines for humanely caring for animals at wildlife auctions. Dr. Ebedes was also responsible for the deregulation of the strict captivity guidelines for African elephants on private game reserves by allowing the use of electric fences to retain them.

I have to share: A memory that always jumps out at me fondly. When he was the veterinarian at the Pretoria Zoo. It was a Saturday afternoon and he was called in for an emergency; a sick Polar Bear. I loved going to work with dad. Unfortunately the bear was not doing well and dad started doing CPR on him. For those of you that don’t know how it’s done, and if ever the opportunity arises to resuscitate a Polar Bear: you hold its mouth closed with both hands and blow a full breath of air into its nose a few times, it takes about 5 breaths to fill its lungs then do strong chest compressions with both hands. My father tried relentlessly for about 20 minutes without luck, unfortunately the bear did not survive. I’ll never forget the look of despair on my father’s face and the quiet drive home.

Sharing his knowledge was always important to him, in his final working years Dr. Ebedes lectured in wildlife diseases at the Pretoria Technikon from 2003 to 2006, his classes were always in high demand.

My father’s passion to care for animals was like an Elixir for him and gave him great pride. Dr. Ebedes was fortunate to share his passion across the world. He regularly traveled the globe, taking Rhino to China, Cheetah to Australia, consulting the Spanish government on how to catch rare Ibex in the Pyrenees mountains and guiding the Hong Kong Zoo on their Giraffe enclosure are just a few of the exciting contributions he made to wildlife.

In 1993 Dr. Ebedes was awarded the National Agriculturist of the Year by the South African government, In 1995 Ebedes was honored by the South African Veterinary Association, for outstanding contribution to wildlife conservation and ecology and was the recipient of the Lycaon Award.
He also served on many committees to improve the care for animals, such as Rhino and Elephant foundation and Committee for the training and Welfare of African Elephant.

He is survived by his wife Audrey and their children Simeon, Michael, Gertrude, his stepdaughters Alicia and Tania, and 11 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.

Dr. Ebedes will be missed by humans and animals alike.

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Photo courtesy Simeon Ebedes

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Photo courtesy Simeon Ebedes

Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia
Travel News Namibia is a high-quality glossy Namibia travel and lifestyle magazine tasked with promoting Namibia to the world. With riveting stories, first-hand encounters and magnificent photographs showcasing tourism, travel, nature, adventure and conservation, TNN is the ultimate and most comprehensive guide to exploring Namibia. Travel News Namibia is published in five different editions per year. These include four English- language editions and one German. Travel News Namibia is for sale in Namibia and South Africa.

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