The Olsen Animal Trust (OAT) is a UK-based family trust that provides support to conservation and animal welfare projects around the world. OAT is one of GRI's major donors, providing generous annual support to the Wildlife Rescue Department.
This November, GRI welcomed OAT Intern, Rosie Tod, to Zambia through our Volunteer Programme. Originally from Surrey in the UK, Rosie studied biology at Bristol University and graduated in 2017. She spent 6 months interning at OAT, learning about GRI's work, before coming out to join us and meet the orphaned elephants she helped to support.
As part of her volunteer placement, Rosie spent time at the Lilayi Elephant Nursery, cleaning out the elephant stables, collecting browse, writing blogs and raising conservation awareness in local primary schools. She also created a vegetation guide and produced an orphan ID guide.
Rosie also volunteered with the Wildlife Rescue Department at the Kafue Release Facility. Here's what she had to say about her volunteer experience:
Volunteering at the Kafue Release Facility is an incredible experience. Every day brings something new! A typical day starts early, meeting at around 6:15am to go out on the morning walk with the elephants. You will usually have a chance to walk and get used to the elephants first, and will start the behavioural observation study later on. At first you will wonder how on earth you are going to individually identify 12 elephants but trust me, you pick it up quickly! The elephants have certain features and quirks that you will get to know and they are often seen hanging out with certain other elephants which helps you to see who is who. I loved doing the study as you learn so much about elephant behaviour, such as what counts as an affiliative or a submissive interaction – I will never look at an elephant in the same way again!
After the walk we come back for some breakfast and tea or coffee and relax a little as it is still early! Usually we head to the office where we made milk pots for Mulisani, the most recently transferred orphan. We then get started on projects including bird identification, creating an elephant vegetation guide, writing blog posts, sorting through keeper photos… the list goes on. We have an early lunch or snack as we need to be at the boma at 12:00 for the afternoon behavioural observation study.
After a quick snack we head back to the office. Some days we will continue with projects, some days we will learn something new. We learnt how to work and set up camera traps and got some great pictures, including zebra, Lichtensteins hartebeest, impala and a white-tailed mongoose. Not only did we learn how to use them, but also how they can be used and why they are so useful. On another day we learned how to do radio telemetry - three of the elephants at the release facility have collars on meaning we can track them using VHF (very high frequency). We learnt how to pinpoint where an elephant is by listening to the sound on the receiver. Later on, we learnt about GIS (Geographical Information systems) from Vincent (GRI's Post Release Monitoring Coordinator). He showed us how he creates maps that show different things about where the elephants have been and about the area, and we also learnt about how GIS is used. The hope is that the elephants will increase their range as they become more confident.
We would sometimes go on browse where we take the pick-up truck and a trailer out into the park (usually spotting some great wildlife on the journey) and go and collect LOTS of branches of the elephants favourite food. This is also a great chance to see more of the park – we saw an aardvark den and some amazing spiders webs. When the working day comes to an end the football game begins! Every evening the staff play football which is great to join in with, or watch if you prefer!
The shower at camp is amazing as the water is warm and you get to be under a beautiful acacia tree with frogs. Dinner time is great as you are usually hungry after your busy day and it is fun using the fire to cook things (including cookies!). We had a few games nights but often just chatted around the campfire. You usually feel pretty tired after being busy outside all day and sleep very well in your tent to the sound of insects, birds and frogs (and the occasional elephant splashing in the river!).