Animal Welfare and Conservation Masters student Zoe Braybrook will be heading to South Africa over the summer for an internship at Colchester Zoo's UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve.
The internship is for four weeks at the 6,000 hectare reserve in KwaZulu Natal and will give Zoe, from Sudbury, Suffolk, a unique insight into wildlife research and species conservation.
The 24-year-old said: “This is a dream placement for an Animal Conservation and Welfare student and I am absolutely buzzing for this experience!
“It has always been a dream of mine to work on a reserve such as this. The reserve is managed by Colchester Zoo, so now I get the opportunity to volunteer for an experience of a life time as well as hopefully showing my future employer just how passionate I am.
“I want a career in the field and I think this will give me real-life experience of what is consistently discussed throughout journals - such as how camera trapping actually works - and seeing the animals in their natural habitat.
“I want to look at stress instigators in captivity for my dissertation so, having observed the animals myself in the wild, it will make for a very interesting comparison.”
Competition for the internships is high and, as Action for the Wild is a non-profit organisation, they have to be self-supported. They offer interns the opportunity to work with experienced staff and their ongoing projects as well as the practical tasks around the reserve.
Zoe, who studied BSc (Hons) Equine Behavioural Science at Writtle before progressing to the Masters, said: “I might be working with camera traps or carrying our animal observation or counts, checking fences, doing night checks or poaching checks. There are excursions at the weekends that students can go on, visiting Nambiti Reserve where the Big Five species can be found, a bird of prey sanctuary, a reptile centre and horse-riding through the mountains - which I'm particularly excited about!
“The reserve was set up from a number of farms so they are missing some flagship species such as lions and elephants because the habitats had been lost but some species, such as leopards, are naturally returning to the area. I'm looking forward to seeing giraffe, wildebeest, zebra and hopefully leopards in the wild and it's fantastic to think I will be contributing directly to their conservation!”
Rebecca Moore, Director of Conservation, Education and Research at Colchester Zoo said:“We look forward to welcoming Zoe to the UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve in August, and are confident she will gain vital conservation and research skills to further a career in the conservation field, as well as have a wonderful experience in the African bush.
“We first welcomed interns onto UmPhafa in 2009, and have since had 300 interns visit us. Over the years, we have welcomed many Writtle University College students to UmPhafa and we are eager to share the wonders of the reserve with them each year.”
Dr Jonathan Amory, Principal Lecturer in Animal Behaviour and Welfare at Writtle University College, said: “The UmPhafa Conservation Project captures so many of our ideals in best-practice animal management, conservation and care for the environment. It is great that our students can access their internship programme that will provide a trip of a lifetime, in addition to bridging the gap between theory and practice.”
Every year, some of the undergraduates and postgraduates studying Animal courses at Writtle University College visit UmPhafa for two weeks on study tour for the experience of a lifetime! Another three graduates will be returning to Umphafa on internships after enjoying their placement there as part of their undergraduate studies last year.
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