Heather O’Donoghue is a 4th year Medicinal Chemistry student in Trinity college Dublin, with a keen interest in animals. In the summer of 2014 she spent a month and a half working with big cats , as a volunteer at the Seaview Predator Park in Port Elizabeth South Africa and she has been kind enough to share her experiences with us here at the Pocket Zoo:
TPZ: Hi Heather thanks for taking the time to talk to us , so tell us a where did you go and for how long ?
HO’D: In the summer of 2014 I spent six weeks volunteering at the Seaview Predator Park in Port Elizabeth South Africa.
TPZ: Sounds awesome where did you find out about doing something like that ?
HO’D: I found Seaview Predator Park through the humanitarian and wildlife volunteering agency GoEco (www.goeco.org). The GoEco team were exceptionally helpful and supportive in helping me to organise my trip and giving me all of the advice I needed for my trip. I cannot recommend them enough as an agency if one was looking for an exciting and rewarding volunteering experience.
TPZ: So what types of animals were you mostly working with ?
HO’D: Seaview is home to a number of beautiful cat species including African lions, Siberian and Bengal tigers, caracals, servals, leopards, hyenas, and the lovely inhabitants of the petting farm.
TPZ: Other than the incredible photos you sent us what else did you get from your summer volunteering ?
HO’D: In my time with Seaview I learned a huge amount about caring for animals in a captivity like environment. Days on the park were full on and ever varying.
TPZ: Could you tell us what a typical day in the park was like ?
HO’D: Sure , we spent mornings before breakfast cleaning out the enclosures, burying excrement, removing bones from the previous evening feedings, raking leaves, scrubbing water troughs and refilling them. It was essential to keep the enclosures clean and safe for the animals.
For all of mid-morning, we would work towards improving the park’s facilities, not only those for the animals but those in the public areas of the park. We would build fences, re-paint public areas of the park, dig and cement new water troughs, repair broken equipment, and just make the park as perfect a home for the animals and as wonderful a visitor experience as possible with the resources that we had.
Following lunch time, we had quality time with the animals. This involved interacting with the animals through play, affection, and company. It was vitally important to keep up this personal relationship with these animals as most of them had been hand raised as rescues or orphans.
Finally, in the evening we would prepare the meat for feeding time and give the animals a carefully measured portions of the types of food they would eat if they were hunting in the wild.
TPZ: Sounds so cool , How did you find the overall experience?
HO’D: My experience in Seaview taught me about the importance of animal conservation and educating the public about animal welfare issues. It is so vital that these kinds of conservation projects are supported and that people see that there’s little more rewarding that you can do than give up your time to those who need it.
TPZ: Last question ,would you recommend volunteering to other’s ?
HO’D: Volunteering on a conservation project, any conservation project, is exceptionally worthwhile. Be it with endangered species in South Africa, or in your local dog shelter, you can never underestimate the value of your time.
Below are some of the amazing photos Heather took during her time with the Cats , enjoy.
Thanks for reading.