Before COVID19 hit the world, we had lots of volunteers at our wildlife centre. Though they’ve all been gone since March, when they were with us, we sat down with Ella from England to understand what her time with Lilongwe Wildlife Trust was like and what parts she loved the most.
Hi, I’m Ella Gray, I’m 21, and I’ve come over from England. I signed up as a sanctuary volunteer for four months with LWT. In my time I’ve seen and done so much! I’ve taken part in a lot of enrichment and lots of feeding of different animals.
Longer stays also mean you can go to Kuti and other places. It’s a nice change of scenery. Sitting by a campfire or riding in the back of cars, watching zebra and sable walk past you.
As for the sanctuary work it’s been really great! I spent most of the last two years working in Limpopo in South Africa with vervets so I was already experienced with orphaned baby monkeys. I think that’s often peoples highlight. For me, I’ve enjoyed all the other animals. There is so much vairety that comes in here and needs care. I’ve been learning about and feeding a blind chameleon and also this grey parrot. She’s still quite nervous so we don’t do a lot with her but it’s been interesting to learn what issues can arise with people keeping illegal pets. The parrot for instance doesn’t really birdcall the way you’d expect. She imitates other animals and makes fire engine noises. The things she most heard in the house she was in.
For me, the best moments as a sanctuary volunteer have definitely been the three pangolins that have come in since I’ve been here. The wildlife centre has only had like four in the last year so to see three has been really lucky. I’d never seen one before. It’s very cool to look at them and take them for walks to find their food. They’re so gentle. It’s amazing that they have all survived because it’s really tough to keep them alive in captivity – they don’t do well. And the last of the three that came was tiny. She was only two months old or something. So we weren’t sure if she was going to live while in our care but she has. That‘s been really exciting! The next stages will be challenging for her, but so far so good. It’s so horrible that people want to hurt them.
I was supposed to go to university and study wildlife conservation. But after my gap year – I went to South Africa – I decided not to go to back. It wasn’t for me. Much to my parents disappointment, I canceled my place and did an internship. My goal is to get the most out of internship experiences like this one and then secure a job working with animals.
For me I love the animal care side. The feeds and the like. The nurturing stuff. I don’t have any desire to be a vet nurse or anything. But the fact you can shadow vets and watch procedures here, and witness necropsises to understand how things die, it’s really educational.
Aside from the animals, the volunteers side of being at the sanctuary is great too. Again staying for so long there have been times where its been me and 1-2 other people. So there’s lots of down time to read, take trail walks and things because the others are often busy at different times to you. And then theres been times when theres been 10 of us and we all go to dinner and out dancing. It’s so unique that a sanctuary is in the middle of a city. Where I was before, I was isolated for 10 months. Here you can go to bars and see live music. But at the same time, once you’re in the wildlife cetnre, it’s so big and feels like you’re a world away. It doesn’t feel like there’s a million people outside of it.
I’m heading home soon but I’ll be back to Africa as soon as I can. I’d defnitely recommend others getting out here and seeing and learning all there is to offer.
Sanctuary volunteers, vet extnerships and wildlife vet courses are all open to book from 2021 onwards. If you’re interested, learn more on our volunteer pages. And don’t hesitiate to send us an enquiry.