Maureen spent four weeks with us, taking part in our Wildlife Rehabilitation Course and a Vet Externship.
I spent my first week at the Kuti Wildlife Reserve working with Hezy, a wildlife veterinarian pioneering One Health research projects at this reserve. During this week, I walked many miles tracking wild zebra, baboon, and vervet monkey populations to observe social behavior and collect fecal samples for the research. There was a primitive research lab with limited supplies that we used to analyze the samples. I also got to assist with placing game cameras to start tracking populations of different species in the reserve. The game cameras were catching footage of bush pig, warthog, impala, and bushbuck. Placing the cameras involved using a GPS and placing cameras at designated coordinates. We even caught poachers stealing wood on our game feed as well. Another project I helped with was documenting and identifying zebra in Kuti. There are about 100 zebra at the reserve and they have 62 identified. As vet externs, we tracked the zebra, taking pictures of all sides of the animals if possible. Every zebra has a unique black and white striping pattern so I was able to individually identify every zebra photo we collected using the project’s guide.
I participated in a Wildlife Rehabilitation and Management Course at LWT’s Wildlife Centre located in the capital of Malawi, Lilongwe. They also offer a veterinary medicine course. I originally intended on taking this course but the weeks it is offered interfered with Residence life training and therefore was not an option for me. Ultimately, I am glad I took the Wildlife Rehabilitation Course because it is geared toward the level of an undergraduate member. Many of the participants of the veterinary course are DVMs and the material they were covering may have been slightly out of my realm as an undergraduate student. In the rehab course, I learned the ins and outs of wildlife rehabilitation and management medicine. The week long course was a balance of lectures and practical toward by the professional at the center. From lectures about most commonly used medicines for wildlife to learning how to shoot a tranquilizing dart with an air pistol, I can tell you that I learned so much and loved every moment of it.
Week 3 & 4
The last two weeks of my stay, I focused on being a veterinary extern and volunteering at the Wildlife Centre in Lilongwe. I assisted with daily tasks from animal care (chopping/preparing food for animals), orphan care (cleaning/ preparing medicines), enrichment activity preparation (activities for animals who cannot be released into the wild), and many other tasks. During this time, I got to directly assist the veterinarian of the centre with health checks on specific animals. From monitoring the vitals of a baboon to drawing blood on a vervet monkey, I learned an immense amount of information as well as achieved hands-on experience with wildlife. The last 6 days of my stay, I got the opportunity to care for 5 orphaned barn owls. The owls were brought to the centre when the nest was discovered during construction of a school house. The owls required attention for feeding 4 times daily. It took approximately 2 hours per feeding session, so you can imagine the time commitment behind caring for these animals. I learned a lot from this experience. Birds have always been an area of interest for me so having the opportunity to take on primary care for these orphans was incredible.
This is an experience that I hope to share and ultimately see other students participate in the opportunity. I knew I was interested in wildlife work on an international level but having the chance to experience it for myself has helped focus in on my career goals and start making connections within the field.