Various immobilisation and tranquiliser drugs are used during chemical capture of wild animals in order to be able to handle them. These drugs are usually administered in darts using a dart gun. Chemical immobilisation is predominantly used to capture individual animals in a herd or to capture large or dangerous animals such as elephant, rhinoceros, hippo, lion, leopard and buffalo. It is also a very effective capture method when working with aggressive species such as sable and roan antelope, eland and kudu. This method of capture also allows for the individual capture of young animals without having to catch an entire family group. Moreover, darting is very effective when wanting to examine and treat sick animals, for removing aggressive animals from a herd, or for the collection of samples e.g. blood from certain individuals.

Different sizes of darts are available, depending on the volume of drug that is required for a specific animal species. Various needle lengths are also available, depending on the thickness of the animal’s skin. Furthermore, two variants of needles can be selected from depending on the reason for darting. A needle with a wire barb is generally used when the animal must be immobilised. The dart needs to be removed by the veterinarian and will not fall out by itself. A needle with a wire dot is used in situations such as treating animals with antibiotics or vaccination of animals i.e. when the animal is not immobilised but darted with a dart containing a vaccine. The dart is thus able to fall out on its own. There are two types of darting systems. The one system has reusable darts, which requires manual pressurisation. The other system has non-reusable darts that function with a reloaded charge. 

Various darting systems are available in South Africa. Motsumi darts have been developed in South Africa to use with a Pneu-dart gun. These darts are for single use only. Motsumi darts are available in various sizes with different needle lengths and a wire barb or wire dot option.

As previously mentioned, the dart size is selected according to the volume of drugs needed to immobilise the specific animal, as well as the size of the animal. The needle length will be selected according to the thickness of the skin as well as the size of the animal. Animal size is an extremely important factor that needs to be taken into consideration when planning to dart an animal. When an animal is darted, the dart flies at a certain speed and the velocity with what it hits the animal will depend on the pressure setting, the distance covered and the animal size and skin thickness. Larger darts are heavier and thus hit the animal with a greater velocity in comparison to a smaller, lighter dart. When shooting a small-bodied animal with a large or heavy dart, a notable amount of tissue damage and even breaking of bones can result. A longer needle used in a small-bodied animal will penetrate more deeply into the skin and through the flesh of the animal and will also cause notable tissue damage and possible breaking of a bone. (A table with suggestions of dart selection for certain species is presented below).

Darts are sold in boxes of 20’s or larger boxes (also known as lunchboxes) that contain 120 – 250 darts depending on the size. Blanks in brown, green, yellow and pink are also available for purchase.

Please contact Marna van der Walt for a full price list/order form, to place your order or for additional information.

Marna van der Walt

Wildlife Division
Email marna@mvwsa.com