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 2 of us working with him for the 2 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 2 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 2 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.
We darted and translocated 6 sable antelope and another day 4 buffalo that were being darted and translocated/TB tested (be ready to move fast and think on your feet! this was a very exciting experience and as you can imagine working with wildlife means there is no specific plan, you have to be prepared to adapt according to the needs of the animals and their behaviour). Becky and I helped to move the animals once darted and give sedation top up IV (under vet supervision) to keep the animals asleep and safe whilst they were transported to a waiting game trailer ensuring to hold their heads up and monitor their breathing, with the Buffalo it was up to us to help the other members of the capture team to hold the animals heads up and monitor them whilst riding on the back of the trailer to the holding bomas where we assisted the vet with the blood sampling/collection for the TB tests.
We were also called out to an emergency caesarean on a miniature daschund one Sunday morning! (The vet can receive calls anytime) We had think on our feet and head to the clinic then get prepared to anaesthetise her and prep for surgery to ensure the puppies were delivered safely and thanks to some great teamwork, both mother and all 6 puppies were fine!
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, it was a life changing experience that definitely helped us grow as veterinary nurses and showed us a huge variety of cases and how animals we would never come across in the UK are treated out in the wilds of Africa, the vet was brilliant and taught us both so much as well as allowing us to be really hands on, we are definitely looking forward to returning to work with him again on this project sometime in the future.
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 extinction of the species. Within the next 5 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 6 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 2 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 behaviour observations of the younger calves (especially if they are being integrated into a new crash), assisting staff with healthchecks 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 2 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