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Phinda Wildlife Research Project: 28 November - 12 December 2023*
Hanging out with hippos
Joining the Khulula Care for Wild project is hard work: Many past participants will testify to busy days, rising at 6 am for the first feeding round before your own breakfast (if you were lucky enough not to have drawn the short straw for the 2 am feed of the rhino orphans!), being on your feet for most of the day, carrying buckets full of water or bottles with formula and keeping eager rhino calves, nosy monkeys and feisty mongoose at bay, who all want a meal or a cuddle.
But it’s in amongst all the chores and challenges that the magic of Khulula Care for Wild sneaks in. It’s on the day when Donnie isn’t the “small” rhino – he’s the bossy one with all the antics! When you enter the barn automatically calling out a greeting to Screech the barn owl, who was released a long time ago but decided he likes it just fine in the barn. And when you spend your downtime hanging out with Kate the volunteer and Emma the hippo, because both have become good mates. That’s when you’ve become a part of Khulula – and Khulula and all its residents have become a part of you. Forever.
Lucy Sloane: I spent 6 weeks at Care for Wild and it was everything I had hoped it would be. I was able to experience first hand the hard work that goes into caring for such incredible animals and better yet the amazing reward that is given when the animals begin to trust you. Emma and Molly (the hippos) were the best part of my day, every day. I count myself immensely lucky to have been working so closely with two amazingly funny, charming and special hippos and that I was able to call them my babies for that period of time. During my time at Care for Wild I experienced the arrival of two new baby rhinos and was able to watch and help them settle in. I was able to sleep over in the night pen with Warren, the baby Rhino and have him come and cuddle me. I made wonderful friends and saw the true passion and dedication that the owner Petronel has for every single animal that comes into her care. And last, but definitely not least, I was able to go swimming in the pond with Emma and Molly – Never did I even dream that I would one day be swimming with two hippos! Care for Wild was simply unforgettable.