I decided to volunteer with African Conservation Experience (ACE) to the Phinda Wildlife Research Project to help me with my college course and to gain hands-on experience in wildlife conservation. My time there was the most incredible six weeks filled with once-in-a-lifetime experiences and amazing people! It was truly unforgettable.
During my time at Phinda, I was involved in contributing to ongoing research into the long-term effects of contraception on elephants.
Each day we were tracking different elephant herds across the reserve using telemetry which received signals from the matriarch's radio collar. We would observe the elephant herds and once they had moved on, we collected samples of dung so that they could be tested. I also got to observe four elephant captures where the team changed radio collars and collected blood, hair and skin samples for genetic analysis.
During my experience, I got to observe some of the management practices that occur at Phinda, including two black rhino horn trimmings. The procedures involved collecting skin, hair, and blood samples, and microchipping the rhino. Their health was also evaluated and any necessary treatments were administered.
I was also lucky enough to watch a rhino calf receive his ear notches - which is done so that it can be identified in the future.
Another management practice I was involved with, was the treatment of an injured male cheetah. The cheetah had broken a toe, which the vet decided they had to amputate. I got to witness the procedure and assisted with the weighing and measuring of the cheetah.
It was truly a privilege to work with the amazing team at Phinda. They were so inspiring, dedicated and willing to share their knowledge with volunteers. It was amazing to experience wildlife conservation in action whilst being able to make a meaningful contribution. My fellow volunteers also made this experience so incredible, with memories that will last a lifetime.
My time at Phinda was nothing short of extraordinary, filled with diverse experiences that enriched both my professional and personal growth.
I am so grateful for the ACE team. They were there for me at every step of the trip. This gave me peace of mind as they took care of everything, from organising internal transfers to greeting me at the airport but also reassuring me and answering any questions I had!