Bede's Pupils Visit South Africa On Wildlife Conservation Trip
July saw 17 Sixth Form pupils accompanied by Mr Juniper, Mr Jones and Ms French take part in Bede’s first wildlife conservation trip to the South African bush.
Our aims were to help first hand with the conservation of endangered species in the wild. In particular to support rhino conservation due to the terrible poaching crisis currently facing these animals and driving them towards extinction. Finally, we wanted to volunteer in the field, making use of the theory and techniques that Bede’s pupils and staff have developed in our Animal Management and Biology departments, helping practically where we could.
The first project that we volunteered at was 'Care for Wild Africa' based in the province of Mpumalanga in eastern South Africa. Bordering the nations of Swaziland and Mozambique, it embraces the southern half of the world famous Kruger National Park.
'Care for Wild Africa' is the largest rhino orphanage in the world, caring for and rehabilitating babies that have had their mothers shot by poachers in the wild to take the rhino horn. On average three Rhino are killed each day in Southern Africa just for their horns.
The pupils stayed in modest accommodation, residing in wooden huts and canvas tents. Volunteering started early at 6.30am every day. Pupils got involved with making up milk for babies, feeding them up to six times a day, cleaning out enclosures, cutting browse, feeding hay and branches to the older rhino calves and learning about the anti-poaching work that is going on.
There was also lots of mucking out to do! It was tough physical work, very demanding but very worthwhile. There were over 50 rhinos at the centre where we stayed as well as hippos, lions and many other species.
We helped at the rhino orphanage for a week, before giving presentations about our experiences to other volunteers and the project owners on the final night and being presented with certificates of thanks for the help we offered.
We then spent a day in the Kruger National Park on Safari. It was an incredible experience where we saw many species of animals in their natural environment from the African Elephant to the White Rhino, the Southern Giraffe to the Cape Buffalo.
Our next volunteering project ‘Siyafunda Conservation’, is a programme to assist the Greater Makalali Game Reserve with monitoring elephants as part of their contraception programme.
This then evolved to include the Big Five as well as other predators and it is now one of the largest private conservation parks in Southern Africa.
Bede’s pupils spent a week working here, helping with the monitoring of various species including lions, leopards, hunting dog, white rhino, black rhino, hyena and elephants.
We also carried out conservation work, clearing invasive species of plants and helping to maintain the roads and fences within the park. Once again this was hard work but an incredible experience to see the diverse wildlife. During the two weeks we spent in the South African bush, we saw a total of 189 species!
It was an amazing life changing experience for all who took part and more importantly, an opportunity to volunteer, work hard and make a genuine difference to the plight of some of the world’s most amazing wildlife.
Year 13 pupil, Scarlet Mayo gives a brief account of her experience
The trip to South Africa was by the far the best school trip I have ever been on and of one my favourite experiences to date. I learned so much about the animals; they are in far more danger than people realise. The rhinos we visited were kept in a high security area to keep the poachers as far away as possible.
Every day we encountered new challenges, ranging from cleaning out enclosures to feeding five month old rhinos. We spoke to the baby rhinos like puppies as they reacted and responded in a similar way.
Our guides were so informative and you could tell they really cared for these beautiful creatures. We were volunteering with people from all walks of life, and during our short time I found I developed friendships and strong bonds with so many people.
At our second camp we came across such diverse wildlife in close proximity, a completely new experience to seeing them in a zoo. A particularly scary moment was when our safari vehicle almost got rammed by a male white rhino, and a huge male lion came very close and looked me straight in the eye.
It was an unforgettable experience, with the only challenge being the early starts! I hope to go back to South Africa in the future to help with animal conservation.