Group of ACE volunteers relaxing around the campfire
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Emma Ruggles: holding animals

Emma Ruggles

🇬🇧 United Kingdom

Length of Trip
54 Nights

Project Year

My friend Becky and I are both Registered Veterinary Nurses from the UK and we spent two weeks on the Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Project and it was the most amazing experience.

The vet was brilliant and was keen to ensure we were both as hands-on as possible with the animals throughout our time working with him, we were lucky for it to be just the two of us working with him for the two weeks we were at this project however even as a small group of volunteers rest assured you will still have a great experience.

The vet we shadowed was very knowledgeable and enjoys teaching so make sure you ask plenty of questions! We had a varied caseload throughout the two weeks, there were some quieter days but anyone who works in the veterinary industry will know that this can change at any moment which it did, because no two days were ever the same.

Cases we saw/experiences we had included: treating a lion cub at the veterinary clinic under sedation that had an abscess, the vet darting and then Becky and I helping to treat an adult lioness that had a tooth root abscess, making house calls to provide flea and worming treatment for dogs and cats, visiting local farms in the community as well as game farms to treat livestock (both wildlife and domestic) and provide animal husbandry advice to local farmers and educating them on animal health, welfare and nutrition.

I would highly recommend the Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience to anyone with a veterinary background, whether that be a vet/vet student or veterinary nurse/nurse student, who has an interest in wildlife and conservation and wants to test themselves and take their veterinary skills and knowledge to the next level.

I spent six weeks at Care for Wild in November/December 2018 having previously travelled to this project with ACE in August 2017 and had a truly life-changing experience I knew I had to return and stay for longer!

The rhino poaching crisis in Africa is a true epidemic and Care for Wild is a conservation project on the frontline fighting to save these beautiful animals and prevent the extinction of the species. Within the next five years, there could be no wild rhino left in Africa and that is not a world Care for Wild ever wants to see… The centre specialises in the rescue, care and rehabilitation, release and preservation of rhino calves that have been found orphaned/injured without their mothers in the wild and more often than not this is due to a poaching incident.

I spent six weeks working as a volunteer with the team and had the most incredible experience, the team are very welcoming and friendly to all of the volunteers they ensure you are as hands-on/involved as possible with the daily care of all of the animals at the centre and its not just rhinos they also have two resident hippos and lions Tuscan and Figa as well as a range of Owls, Cerval, Caracal, Nyala, Duiker and Mongoose, with the centre open to any and all African wildlife in need of help there could be a wide variety of species under their care at any time, you get to know the animals as you care for them each day and they all have their own unique personalities from sweet little rhino Arthur the brave to cheeky hippos Emma and Molly.

You will be involved in making milk bottles and helping to feed the rhino calves at their feeding times, providing feed for the adult rhinos that have teff, lucern and rhino pellets laid out for them, feeding other animals at the centre including cutting meat for the cats and preparing vegetables for the hippos, cleaning and maintenance of bomas and animal enclosures, because hygiene is very important as young rhino calves especially can be vulnerable to picking up infections if their environment is not kept properly cleaned and maintained, making enrichments for the animals, helping with behavioural observations of the younger calves (especially if they are being integrated into a new crash), assisting staff with health checks of the rhino as required and any of the animals such as the anti-poaching unit horses and canines that may need care and attention eg medications or bathing! The staff will also give short educational lectures during your stay so you can learn as much as possible about all aspects of what Care for Wild do e.g their mission, the poaching crisis, wildlife care and management and black and white rhino.

There’s also the option of additional trips during your stay, such as a day trip to Kruger Park where you can expect to see a wide variety of wildlife and if you are lucky like we were, the Big 5!

No two days are ever the same and you can expect routine to change, after all, you are working with wildlife! During my stay at Care for Wild a 4-week-old rhino calf arrived at the centre after being flown in from the Kruger park (later named Ribbon), she was found wandering alone after her mother was poached, dehydrated and vulnerable she needed care and so was transferred to Care for Wild for her safety, routine became a case of all hands on deck as all of the care for wild staff and volunteers alike pulled together to help this calf on arrival the team want you to be as involved as possible in cases like this because it is truly a team effort to help these young babies and give them the best possible chance, an experience I will never forget.

Be prepared for hard work and long days but if you are prepared to give it 100% then I assure you it is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have, knowing you have made a real difference in the lives of these animals and the rhino as a species by helping to actively, care for, protect and preserve them.

Petronel and all of the staff at Care for Wild are amazing at what they do and are truly passionate about saving the rhino, I have made friends for life with the staff and volunteers alike at Care for Wild, this project has changed my life, made me love Africa even more than I already did and opened my eyes to the plight of the rhino and how it is up to all of us to continue to fight for them to provide a future for the species, I will support Care for Wild for the rest of my life and I look forward to returning as a volunteer again in the future.

‘If we cannot save the rhino…. then we can’t save anything’ – Petronel

Be prepared for hard work and long days but if you are prepared to give it 100% then I assure you it is one of the most rewarding experiences you will ever have, knowing you have made a real difference in the lives of these animals and the rhino as a species by helping to actively, care for, protect and preserve them.