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Phinda Wildlife Research Project: 28 November - 12 December 2023*
My name is Micaela Chaffin and I currently attend University in Tennessee. I am a pre-veterinary student currently applying to veterinary programs in the US. I chose to do the Shimongwe Wildlife Veterinary Experience with ACE for the wildlife medicine experience. I travelled to South Africa alone and was extremely nervous, however, from the moment that I landed in South Africa, I knew that I was in great hands with ACE. I spent three weeks at the Louis Trichardt Clinic shadowing their wildlife vet. I have nothing but great things to say about him and the other veterinarians at the clinic. Most of our time was spent with the vet darting different antelope species, buffalo, and zebra, then treating those animals as needed. This experience is VERY hands-on. I got to do many injections, monitored breathing, holding animals, and assisting in any way that I could. If the wildlife vet didn’t have much planned that particular day, then we would shadow one of the other vets. This usually involved assisting in fertilisation, pregnancy, and TB testing of cattle or bulls. We also assisted in treating puncture wounds in bulls. Every day was an adventure and we never knew what was going to happen next.
Most weekends when we weren’t working, we got to go on trips to different locations. My first weekend I was there, we took a trip to a safari camp that wasn’t too far from where we were staying. We got to braai, take safaris, and we even did a walking tour that led us to rhinos with their original horns! The next weekend we travelled around Kruger National Park, where I got to see a ton of elephants, zebra, giraffe, lions, and leopards. My last weekend, we took a relaxation trip to a resort with giant pools that we floated in all day.
Everyone that I met while on this journey was so incredible and wanted to make sure that we Americans were having a great time. One day specifically, it was taking a while to dart the antelope, so the owners of the farm allowed us to see their lions. On a different day, we were there to treat sable, but ended up working with Nyala.
Every day was unexpected in the best possible ways and always left us wanting more. The volunteers that I worked with were absolutely amazing, and I believe I may have met some lifelong friends.
If there’s one thing that I hope someone gets out of this, is that if you are considering going, but you are nervous, DO IT ANYWAY! This was the best experience of my life and so eye opening! I would go again in a heartbeat.