Three weeks from today I will be arriving in Africa for a three week adventure throughout South Africa and Namibia.
I will be spending two weeks in Nelspruit, South Africa with Wildlife Vets learning about wildlife conservation medicine, then, post course, I will be spending an extra week traveling South Africa and Namibia with Dr. Derr meeting with professional hunter organizations to discuss some ongoing research projects. I might even have the chance to go hunting myself (eek!).
While it may be my third time on the continent, I will be experiencing it like I never have before. My first time in Africa I was a tourist. The second time I was a researcher. Now I will be a student, partaking in an in-depth course on the various aspects of different chemical preparations and their use in wildlife. Basically, I’m going to become an expert in how to dart and delouse. Past participants in this program have had the opportunity to wrangle crocodiles, dehorn rhino as an anti-poaching precaution, treat sick and injured wildlife including wild dogs and lions, and take part in the translocation of Cape Buffalo. I’ve had a lot of hands-on experience having worked at multiple zoos and the Cheetah Conservation Fund but nothing like this. I am lucky enough to be going on the TAMU Continued Education trip with practicing vets as opposed to the study abroad trip with students. I’m essentially going to get to be an honorary veterinarian for two weeks (of course with lots of help from the trained professionals).
I am super excited for this trip. This program is a hands on opportunity to learn field methods no one can learn in a classroom but are incredibly important to know if I want to do field research in the future. Knowledge of the chemicals used for wildlife tranquilization and capture and how tissue and blood samples are obtained in various capture methods is beneficial for the development of accurate and efficient laboratory protocols needed to process samples. So, while my initial decision to make this trip was “OMG THAT WOULD BE SO COOL!”; my final decision was based on the fact that it really is an investment to my career.
I always try to find exciting adventures that will enhance my life personally with the added benefit of enhancing it professionally. This trip will do just that and is totally worth the colossal hit to my bank account!