July 2014 – Three Mount Ida College Veterinary Science Technology students spent one month in South Africa to learn about wildlife conservation and the crucial role veterinary medical staff plays in the country’s growing wildlife industry. The trip marked an experience of a lifetime for veterinary technology students Lindsay Dustin ‘14, Therese Pymento ‘15 and Sasha Morency ’14, who were able to take their longstanding passion for wildlife conservation abroad this June to Moholoholo Rehabilitation Center in Hoedspruit, South Africa, where they each had the opportunity to care for exotic wildlife including leopards, giraffes, honey badgers, and antelopes while exploring South Africa’s vibrant culture.
“I have had an extreme passion for these animals my entire life and by having this experience, I have already been given the chance to understand what it takes to work with them,” noted Pymento.
The trip to South Africa provided an opportunity for the students to gain the hands-on, career-focused clinical training required by the Mount Ida Veterinary Technology program in a unique setting. Dustin and Pymento elected to complete one of their required clinical rotation internships at the rehabilitation center, combining studying abroad through Mount Ida’s Center for Global Connections with gaining valuable professional experience through caring for exotic wildlife. Morency, a graduate student, spent her time in South Africa conducting research on local animal species while volunteering at Moholoholo.
At the rehab center, students became a pivotal part of the day-to-day activities and the care and treatment of wildlife. Their duties were wide-ranging, consisting of feeding and cleaning; playing with animals to provide stimulation and exercise; helping to transport sick or injured animals; releasing healthy animals back to the wild; and even hand-raising baby animals.
Though Moholoholo’s ultimate goal is releasing animals back into the wild once their health is restored, staff at the rehab center sometimes encounter wildlife that are too sick to survive on their own. As a result, the rehab center houses a number of ‘permanent residents’ that become ambassadors for their species to visitors. Members of the public enjoy up close and personal experiences with resident animals while the Moholoholo staff provides information about each species and the threats facing wildlife.
One of the leading veterinary technology programs in New England, Mount Ida’s Veterinary Technology program provided the perfect foundation for the student’s work at Moholoholo:
“This trip increased my interest in environmental conservation and reinforced my passion to educate the public about wild animals and their habitats,” said Morency. “I learned that rehabilitation of wild animals is important, but the education that the clinic provides the public is vital to the conservation of the South African habitat as a whole.”
During their spare time, the intrepid students made the most of the natural splendor around them taking a safari tour of Kruger National Park and camping outside underneath the vast, stunning African night sky.
“One of my favorite things that we did was a sleep out, camped in the middle of the African bush,” said Dustin while noting the high possibility of wildlife encounters near their camp during the night.
The experience left a memorable impression on each student, encouraging them to continue to seek out new global experiences.
“This experience has motivated me to continue my travels around the world to further enhance my knowledge about environmental conversation,” concluded Morency.
To learn more about your study abroad options at Mount Ida, please visit the Center for Global Connections. For more information about Mount Ida’s Veterinary Technology Program, visit our undergraduate majors page.