Water buffalo can be dangerous if you don't know how to handle them. Below are some tips on handling water buffalo the right way.
Common Errors in Handling
• Don’t try to block an animal’s path if it is coming directly towards you. Take the pressure off by retreating backwards, not staring directly at it or by turning quickly and heading in that same direction away from it. If this is done early enough, before the animal is fully committed, it will generally turn back to the mob if not previously heavily stressed. It is too late if the animal has started to run directly at you; you need to observe more closely and to react earlier.
• Don’t work in the blind space directly behind, unless moving to the opposite wing of the mob. Animals want to see where you are, so stay in their field of vision. Walking in the blind space usually induces a change of direction in the leaders, as they can’t see you.
• Walk in straight lines. Walking in arcs informs the animal that you are a predator and are not to be trusted. If a change in direction is required, make a sharp turn and recommence on a new straight line path.
• Turn a mob’s direction of movement by acting from one side to turn them to the opposite side rather than from directly in front.
• Maintain constant movement and do not stand still. Walk from side to side without moving closer to maintain pressure.
• Work in a “Pressure ON” – “Pressure OFF” manner. Constant pressure only causes panic in the animal.
• Don’t use any implements such as sticks, rods, pipes etc. and worse still, electric prodders.
• Talk in normal conversation tones and avoid shouting. Again body language is the more potent form of communication. Unfortunately they don’t have multi-lingual skills, so don’t be upset if they don’t understand!.
• Maintain focus. You need to be observing animal movement constantly and be prepared for an instant response. Try to recognise a problem in advance and cover it sooner. Early intervention is usually more effective.
• Don’t rush to attempt to close a gate when the mob is starting towards it to exit the yard that they have just been moved into. The most common cause of this exiting is trying to fit too many head into a yard. When pushed into a tight mob they begin to worry more about their hierarchy in the mob than the handler. You need to back off and move from side to side until the animals head back away from the gate opening.
Rushing the gate to slam it closed is most likely to remove your teeth or break bones as the gate gets rushed and pushed open by the panicking mob. If the yard is too full then let some back out to the previous yard. In general, only fill a yard to one third of its capacity. If there is not enough space in the yard to accommodate the whole group, then you are putting pressure on the flight zone of the animals closest to the gate. They have nowhere to go other than back out the gate.
• It is better to work from the side of a mob to control its movement. Don’t go to the rear of the mob; you have no control of direction in their blind zone. Walking parallel but in the opposite direction will affirm their direction or speed them up.
Walking parallel but in the same direction will tend to slow the speed in that direction especially those animals where you are getting into the front of their field of vision. “Pressure ON” can be as much as moving one step closer to the mob and taking “Pressure OFF”, maybe one or two steps away.
Zones of Influence
The direction of the handler from the animal has great importance. The blind zone at the rear has already been discussed, but there are three other distinct zones on both sides of the animal where the handler will have differing impacts.
Your position within these sectors will determine how the animal will react to your presence.
Because of the position of the eyes on the side of their head and not in front, and the shape of their irises, slits instead of circles, their range of vision covers about 320? compared with predators which have eyes in the front of their head and are restricted to less than 180?.
The retard zone is directly in front of the head of the animal. Your impact when in this zone is to retard their forward progress – slow them down, provided you are not critically inside the flight zone in which case they will probably stop or veer left or right.
In the drift zone you will tend to have no impact on direction or speed from outside the flight zone and the animal will tend to maintain its direction and speed.
In the push zone there will tend to be reinforcement of the direction of travel leading to an increase in the speed of progress, depending on the distance away.
One of the very basic rules is that the animal will move in the direction it is facing. So if it is not facing in the direction you want it to move, then there is little prospect of it heading in that new direction without facing it first.
So you need to move your position to get the head facing the required direction. A buffalo will generally face you if you stand in front of it. If you stand in between where it is and where you want it to go to, then pull back and approach from a 30? to 45? angle from the side, it should move in the right direction.
Always work on the leader. Once she (usually) moves the others will follow. Maintain the position in relation to the rest of the mob, then move parallel to their movement and in the opposite direction to empty the yard. Again, don’t walk behind in the blind zone. When following a mob stay to the left or right flank so that they can see you without having to turn.