A group of students studying in Cornwall have been playing their part in the war against poaching as part of a conservation experience of a lifetime in South Africa.
Zoology, conservation and wildlife students from Cornwall College Newquay have just 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 poaching over the last decade.
Rhino poaching in South Africa has skyrocketed due to the demand for rhino horn from Asia. The primary markets for rhino horn are China and Vietnam, where it is often ground into powder for use as a pseudo cure for cancer.
Trip coordinator Jane Cooke, explained the important contribution that the students made as part of their visit: “This field trip is an incredible experience for our staff and students with real opportunities for them to get hands-on in conservation activities including participating in the dehorning of two rhino in the wild. We are all passionate about eradicating rhino poaching which despite ongoing conservation efforts, has dramatically increased, pushing the species closer and closer towards extinction” she said.
“Getting the chance to closely observe the wealth of wildlife and actively take part in conservation projects has been a humbling and life affirming experience and offers the students a new perspective on their return to the U.K.”
Jane added that students have returned from the trip “with a renewed focus and determination in terms of what they want to achieve in their own career development”.
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 Ryan Rose from St Columb is studying his FdSc Animal Husbandry & Welfare course at the College. Ryan said: “The trip was excellent. Everything was amazing in its own way, but the de-horning of two bull rhino, a way of stopping them being targeted by poachers, and getting up close and personal with these animals was just amazing. We were briefed on how the rhino population in South Africa is declining rapidly, with 78 individuals alone being poached in January this year.
“I’ve known for a while that I wanted to go into conservation of some kind. Last year I also went on the Kruger trip, which introduced the possibility of becoming a field guide to me. This year has only solidified the fact that being a field guide out in the African bush is what I want in my future.”
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 Rebecca Moir from the FdSc Animal Behaviour & Psychology at Cornwall College Newquay said: “Kruger is one of the only remaining wild protected places that allow the animals to remain within their natural habitats. This is very important as keeping them in their natural habitat allows for them to survive as nature intended with very little human influence.
“I advise anyone that is after an amazing life experience to go to South Africa as it is something that you will never regret. A massive thank you to everyone who went on the trip with me, thanks for making it an unforgettable experience.”
For more information on Zoology, Marine & Surf courses available at Cornwall College Newquay visit www.cornwall.ac.uk or call 0845 22 32 567.