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The eye-opening country of South Africa by Carilyn Salmi, Animal Science Major

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Posted: December 18, 2018

“Wildlife conservation starts with one person"
Using telemetry to track a lioness.

Using telemetry to track a lioness.

Twelve days after graduation, I embarked on a six-week journey that changed my life. I traveled to the KwaZulu-Natal region of South Africa to volunteer with Wildlife ACT. To begin my journey, I was placed on Hluhluwe Game Reserve working on the Panthera Leopard Project. This project consisted of analyzing data and information caught on camera traps placed throughout the park. The main goal of this project was to determine the number of leopards in the park, because numbers have been decreasing throughout the years. In Hluhluwe, my first week consisted of taking down over eighty camera traps to prepare them for the next reserve.

The next reserve was the iSimangaliso Wetland Park. I spent my second week watching seabirds, hippos, and crocodiles roam about as I set up camera traps. This project required immense amounts of time, organizing pictures into priority species folders. Some of the priority species included: lions, black rhinoceros, banded mongoose, and aardvarks. The final stop on my journey was the Somkhanda Game Reserve, where I spent four incredible weeks. On this reserve, I learned how to use telemetry. Telemetry is a way to track an animal's behavioral patterns, and for wildlife monitors to ensure they are in proper health. I was also able to assist in many different rhino dehorning's, and recollaring of animals such as elephants and lions.

One of the most important skills I learned throughout this experience, is learning how to communicate with people of other nationalities. In a country like South Africa, there are huge language barriers that need to work together. I have learned to adapt and pay attention to small details in order to be successful. I also learned how to push myself outside of my comfort zones and become more confident.

I would describe this experience to a potential employer as something that makes me want to work even harder to achieve my goals. By visiting South Africa, and working with their wildlife, my passion for wildlife conservation intensified. I will strive to return and work to make a difference in the crisis many species in that area are facing. This trip took me outside of my comfort box and allowed me to grow in ways that no other experience could.