It’s not often one encounters a group of young people so amped for conservation from start to end. We recently had the pleasure of hosting Myerscough College at Shamwari Conservation Experience. In their short two week stay we decided to put these ‘’mean machines’’ to the test.

We jumped to work from day one. The volunteers developed their manual working skills by fixing fences, chopping prickly pears and thorny bushes to clear roads, cleaning waterholes and volunteering at the Born Free Foundation Big Cat Sanctuary. On one of the days we decided to poison alien vegetation on the reserve, but it got cut short when we got a call from Shamwari vet, Dr. Johan Joubert, inviting us to join in the darting of a bull elephant for a bit of hands-on veterinary work experience. We took some blood samples to be tested for diseases. We also discovered that it had an abscess in one of its tusk folds and a few of us got to inject the bull with penicillin to sort out the infection.

The volunteers got to share in our pride and joy when nine of the Sinovuyo Day Care Centre children graduated from pre-school. We decided to combine a graduation party with our monthly clothes sale. We gave each of the children a school stationary kit and made R1000 from the day’s sales to contribute to our community fund.

Monitoring on the reserve is always fun as volunteers get to learn about animal behaviour and see some incredible sightings. Some of the favourites included two aardwolf mating, a serval playing in the grass, an unexpected brown hyena and a pride of lions on a giraffe kill at night. A few lucky fish witnessed the start to finish stalking and killing of a warthog by a pride of lions.

Other memorable moments included getting stuck in the mud and everyone getting out to push the cruiser free. Earlier that morning we chopped up a tree that fell across and blocked the road. We were excited to find that caracal, bat-eared fox, rhino, lion, elephant and leopard had visited our camera trap. After days of tracking Sandile, one of our resident leopard, we finally found her two days before the group’s departure….big smiles! We ended the trip with a final game drive and a coffee stop in one of Shamwari’s beautiful valleys, ‘’aka. Jurassic Park’’ and as it was Loo’s birthday we surprised her with a cake in the bush. Thank you Myerscough College! See you next year!