Animal management students from Writtle University College are taking part in the trip of a lifetime. Accompanied by staff members Jarmila Bone and Sife Chikunya, they are spending two weeks at UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve in South Africa.
The 6,000 hectare nature reserve is located in KwaZulu Natal. It encompasses a wide range of habitats from acacia savannah and bushveld to mountainous terrain.
The students are receiving practical experience in conservation and management practices by assisting with seasonal tasks. No two visits are the same. Interns may help with game counts, feeding studies, erosion control and camera trap surveys or even build compost heaps.
Jarmila Bone, Senior Lecturer in Animal Science and Undergraduate Course Scheme Manager, said: “We’re delighted to once again be taking a group of students to UmPhafa. This is a wonderful opportunity to gain an insight into wildlife research and species conservation.
“During the two weeks they spend at the reserve, they’ll receive hands-on experience and further their knowledge of best-practice in situ wildlife conservation management.”
The students are involved in supporting the reserve’s goals of conversation, education and research. Many of the inhabiting species had been lost when the area was used for cattle farming. UmPhafa aims to rehabilitate the habitat and restore natural balance.
Rebecca Langford was one of the Writtle University College students to attend last year’s trip. She said: “It was amazing to see animals and learn about their conservation in their natural habitat. Writtle’s study tour to UmPhafa Private Nature Reserve really is magical and gives you so many unforgettable experiences.”
Only three days into their visit, 2019’s students have already viewed a herd of zebra from the top of iThala and assisted in the set-up of camera traps to monitor leopards. On a trip to the Nambiti Big 5 Private Game Reserve, they saw hippos, heard lions and spotted a buffalo. They added: “Just as we thought the trip was over we came across 20 elephants in the road next to a dam, including a couple of babies”.
The annual UmPhafa trip has a limited number of spaces and is open to students studying BSc and MSc Animal courses.