A group of degree students from Cornwall have joined the international fight against wildlife poaching as part of a conservation experience in South Africa.
Zoology and conservation students from Cornwall College Newquay have spent a week in Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Africa, to learn about what is being done to counter a huge increase in wildlife poaching over the last decade.
Elephant poaching in South Africa has skyrocketed in recent years, with an increase in the number of illegal killings year-on-year since 2015. Kruger National Park is the largest target in southern Africa with 67 elephants poached throughout 2017.
Trip coordinator and Lecturer Thais Martins, explained the important contribution that the students made as part of their visit.
“This field trip was an incredible experience for our staff and students to get hands-on in conservation activities including participating in the darting and collaring of a bull African Elephant in the wild. The students and staff at the College are all passionate about eradicating poaching which despite ongoing conservation efforts, has dramatically increased, pushing species of elephants and rhino closer towards extinction” she said.
Getting the chance to closely observe the range of wildlife and actively take part in real ongoing conservation projects has been a humbling and life affirming experience and offers the students a new perspective on their return to Cornwall, according to Thais.
Under the guidance of Eco Training, a wildlife education company offering gap year opportunities, safari experiences and inspirational wildlife courses, the students were immersed in the heart of wilderness areas of the Maluleke Concession in the northern section of the national park. This area offers varied vegetation, folklore of the early explorers and great wildlife viewing including leopard, buffalo, lions, elephants and a huge variety of birds and insects.
Student Corey Hawkins, who is studying the FdSc Animal Husbandry & Welfare course at Cornwall College, described being able to get so close to the African wildlife as “an incredible experience”.
“From the minute we landed in South Africa to taking off again at the end it was just amazing! The most memorable thing we did would have to be on our first day,” Corey continued.
“This was when we went to KuduLand Safaris Reserve to assist a veterinary team in darting and collaring a Bull African Elephant. This was the first conservation experience that Eco-Training had planned for us on our first day in South Africa. It was an incredible experience that very few people would get the chance to do and I am privileged to have had to the opportunity to do it. Being able to go touch a wild African Elephant is something that I will never forget.”
Other highlights of the visit included volunteering at Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, which focuses on the conservation of rare, vulnerable and endangered animal species. Students also got a taste of an authentic African community when they visited the Makuleke orphanage, primary school and community centre.
Student Elle Adams from the FdSc Conservation & Ecology course at Cornwall College Newquay, said Kruger is a place that is “full of beauty in more ways than one”.
“Not only is there amazing and interesting wildlife there, but the people are so caring and dedicated,” she explained.
“I know that this isn’t going to be the last time I go to Africa and I am sure it won’t be that last time for many of the others either. If anyone is wondering whether to go on the trip, I would definitely recommend it. The conservation experience was a once in a life time opportunity that will stay with me forever.”
For more information on the range of Zoology, Marine, Animal and Conservation courses available at Cornwall College Newquay visit www.cornwall.ac.uk or call 0330 123 2523.