Student blog 26 March – 15 April 2013

Sarah and Rachel


We recently welcomed a new group of participants on our student programme, and here they are!

“Hi, my name is Rachel. I am from England in the UK. I have just completed my final exams to become a qualified veterinary nurse. I have a very keen interest in all animals, especially cats, chickens and penguins! I decided to visit Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre (HESC) as a graduation present to myself, as in England I only have the chance to work with domestic animals. We have only been here two days so far, but it’s already amazing!  They certainly like you to be hands on! The Centre is great, lots of cheetah in large enclosures, as well as lions, African wild dogs, caracals, servals and black footed cats. Going to sleep listening to the lions is definitely something I will miss when I leave!  I am so excited.”

“Hi my name is Sarah, I’m from Western Australia.  I love the beach and sun in Australia.  I decided to come to HESC as a gap year break.  I finished school in 2012 and don’t start university until July 2013.  So HESC was the perfect opportunity to get some real life experience with exotic animals.  I am looking to study either conservation or animal science back in Australia, so this experience is exactly what I need to see if I’ll be making the correct choice.  When I’m older I would love to travel, but may not have the time or money so I took this fantastic opportunity and it was worth it.  I’m having an amazing time and I hope it will help me with my studies.”

Sarah and Rachel being “hands on”


Sarah in action

“It has been a seriously busy week. Early starts, and working all day. We have done lots of butchery work and feeding of cheetahs.  But besides our daily routine, we have also done an amazing boat trip through the beautiful Blyde River Canyon and a fantastic interactive visit to the Reptile Park. The Reptile Park is wonderful in the ways in which you get to interact with native South African snakes, lizards, spiders and may other fascinating animals. The visit to the rural vets was an eye opening experience – we visited cattle and the vets checked for signs of disease. There are many diseases in South Africa that we have never had in Australia, like foot and mouth, rabies and lumpy skin disease. Many cattle had their problems sorted and the farmers were very grateful as the government funds these visits for free as farmers can’t afford it and because the diseases are such a problem. It was an eye opening experience into the lives of many underprivileged people in SA. Being in this poorer area of SA made us all a lot more appreciative of the lives we are given”. ~ Sarah

Rachel about to rescue the baboon spider

Rachel giving the cheetah some love!

Week 2:

“We have been kept so busy here, from 6am starts in the butchery to sedating cheetahs for micro chipping and grooming sessions. I was very lucky that I have been able to use some of my veterinary nursing training on the cheetah here. Our boat trip down the Blyde River Canyon gave us some spectacular views, although I was slightly disappointed to not see a hippo. We did however have glimpse of a hippo on the way back to the Centre. We even got a free gym session with drill sergeant Christo when we had to move three cheetahs and another seven cheetahs on two separate occasions. They were very heavy. The trip to the reptile park was very interesting and educational, I even held a baboon spider (I hate spiders)!!

It’s hard to decide what I’d class as my highlight so far as it has all been so exciting. I think giving the cheetahs an IV injection is high on my list, along with cuddles with savannah the serval, but I wish she wasn’t so drubbly. So far this experience has surpassed all my expectations, and it’s made even better by all the great staff working here”. ~ Rachel

Cheetah cubs

Week 3:

“So my trip is finally coming to an end.  It has been an amazing adventure and experience. Everything from just feeding cheetahs to cheetah interaction has made every bit worthwhile. Education on endangered species and animal conservation is so important in ensuring the future protection of animals. HESC has widened my knowledge of endangered species, knowledge that will definitely help me with my future studies. I hope I can return one day, and I hope then I will have followed my dream of being involved in some sort of animal conservation. I really will remember this experience forever.  I highly recommend it to anyone that is thinking of doing the program. You can’t put a price on animal conservation and I guarantee it will be worth every second”. ~ Sarah

Leopard tortoise

On guard