Incredible footage shows the terrifying proximity a wildlife vet has to a pride of sleeping lions as they travel side-by-side in a plane over the Kruger National Park.
Experienced conservation vet Joel Alves admitted that his job can be ‘nerve-racking’ as he shared videos of him transporting some of the most feared predators in the world.
The tranquilized big cats appear to be sleeping soundly as they are flown to be treated, but could wake up at any time if Joel does not administer the perfect dose of immobilisation drugs.
As well as patching up big cats at 10,000 feet, the inspiring vet has also chased after raging rhinos and enormous elephants as he treats their various ailments, sharing videos of the extraordinary tasks he takes on.
‘It is forever exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time, and in those moments that you are hanging out of a helicopter darting some of the most impressive animals to walk the earth, you wonder how it can even be considered a job,’ he said.
The tranquilized big cats appear to be sleeping soundly as they are flown to be treated
Video shows male lions nestled together in a tiny aircraft, their eyes covered with a mask to prevent them being disturbed by the light coming through the windows
Joel and his colleague are pressed up against the side of the plane as the pilots calmly sit in the cockpit despite their threatening cargo
As well as patching up big cats at 10,000 feet, the inspiring vet has also chased after raging rhinos and enormous elephants as he treats their various ailments
From a childhood dream of being a game ranger at Kruger National Park, Joel, based in Hoedspruit, South Africa, works tirelessly to make an impact on the and welfare of some of the greatest animals on the planet.
The 34-year-old regularly shares videos with his tens of thousands of social media followers, offering a window into what a day in the life of someone with his unusual job is like.
In one clip, elephants crash on their sides to have their trunks clipped as they receive treatment.
In another, he shows how lions are left helplessly choked by sharp metal wire, with the vet coming to the rescue as he shaves back the fur, clips the wires and shields the animal’s eyes.
Discussing his daring flights with some of the most frightening animals in the wild, Joel joked: ‘It is certainly the only time you will find me being able to fly private!’
The video shows male lions nestled together in a tiny aircraft, their eyes covered with a mask to prevent them being disturbed by the light coming through the windows.
Joel and his colleague are pressed up against the side of the plane as the pilots calmly sit in the cockpit despite their threatening cargo.
Another clip shows four lionesses lined up as they are flown for treatment, again masked and sedated.
Wildlife vet Joel Alves, 34, regularly shares videos with his tens of thousands of social media followers
A Rhino in the back of a helicopter. Joel works with all kinds of animals who live in the Kruger National Park
In one clip, elephants crash on their sides to have their trunks clipped as they receive treatment
‘To many, it really seems extreme, but the reality is that the immobilisation drugs we have access to make it an incredibly safe procedure for both the lions and the people stuck in the plane with them,’ said Joel.
‘Images of raging lions running riot in the plane are likely what most people think could happen, but unless you forgot your drugs behind, that shouldn’t be happening.’
The vet has a work-dominated mindset but refuses to see the job as work due to the passion he has for it and the rewarding feeling that comes with it.
It’s a dream he’s always been willing to take a risk for. However, most of the risks come from equipment and trying not to fall from the vehicle.
Joel did mention one near-death experience he had with the animals, surprisingly not involving one of the predators he works with.
‘The most dangerous moments are when you become blasé and stop focusing because you think the situation is one you have been in a hundred times.
‘The closest I have come to serious injury was a buffalo coming at me in a small enclosure.
Conservationists work on a lion in South Africa in a clip shared by Joel
Joel and his team working on a rhino. He said dehorning the impressive animals can be emotionally draining
‘The buffalo were pretty relaxed, and because it was a semi-captive environment, I took more liberties than I should have and quickly found her almost smashing into a point where I had been standing a second earlier before I ran and jumped onto the side of the enclosure wall.’
He admitted that some jobs were more difficult, and emotionally trying, than others.
‘If you are dehorning a rhino… in an attempt to curb the risk of it being poached for its horn, the feelings afterwards are very mixed,’ he said.
‘Despite the feeling of that rhino being a little safer and knowing your best intentions are to help it, there’s always a pit in your stomach at the end of it because that is not how you want to see a rhino living.’
The conservation vet said of the teamwork required in his incredible job: ‘For me, the greatest aspect of this job is not the animals but the amazing people that these animals bring together.’