Abbigail's Group: South Africa - Loop Abroad

Summer programs
Abbigail’s Group: South Africa


Volunteer at an animal sanctuary and take the safari through Pilanesberg Game Reserve!

This two-week adventure of a lifetime gives you the opportunity to go to South Africa to volunteer with birds of prey, reptiles, big cats, small cats, cubs, and primates at Lory Park Animal and Owl Sanctuary in South Africa, go on safari in the Pilanesberg Game Reserve, and take “South Africa Zoo Husbandry and Management” with your veterinary (DVM) trip leader and zoo staff in the classroom, in the lab, and throughout the zoo.

Who It’s For

This group is open to students referred by University of Montana student Abbigail Quinlan. It is not sponsored by, affiliated with, or endorsed by University of Montana.

Each group of up to 8-12 students will have its own US veterinarian and share site staff.

Highlights

  • Two-day safari in Pilanesberg reserve to spot elephants, giraffes, and more!
  • Study big cats such as white and tawny lions, Siberian tiger, pumas, and leopards
  • Assist the zoo vet team in providing care such as vaccinations and deworming
  • Visit community schools as part of zoo education and outreach program
  • Participate in training, feeding, and upkeep of cubs
  • Support enrichments and training for primates, including gibbons and lemurs
  • Do research on small cats (black footed cats)

Dates open for applications


May 30 – June 15, 2020

apply now

*Loop Abroad reserves the right to cancel any program at any time; in case of such cancellation by Loop Abroad, all payments will be returned in full.

Tuition:

$3,500 USD not including international airfare.

This tuition represents a 10% discount on our regular program tuition for your group. No additional discounts or aid are available.

Your space is not held until your $1,000 deposit (credited toward tuition) is paid. Your deposit is due by October 31, 2019 to secure your private group booking. Balance of your tuition is due by January 31, 2020. Interest-free payment plans are available.

All housing, meals, and activities are included in your tuition. Tuition does not include medical insurance – if you don’t have medical insurance that covers you while abroad, you can purchase travel medical insurance. We can help you find a plan that meets our insurance requirements.

Tuition is all-inclusive less airfare. Tuition does not include medical insurance, passport, snacks and souvenirs.

Airfare on the group flight from New York, NY is estimated at $1,700 round-trip including taxes and fees. Participants must fly on the group flight unless otherwise arranged with Loop Abroad (fees apply to flying off the group itinerary).

Hours and Credits

This program was designed with pre-vet students in mind. For your application to vet school (VMCAS), this program provides the following hours:

Veterinary Hours: 60 hours

The AVMA says “If you have the opportunity to work… for veterinarians who work with different species, that’s a bonus that can make you more appealing to a veterinary school admissions committee.” We’re proud to offer you that opportunity!

You will get to know your vet during the program, and they will get to know you! If you participate to the best of your ability, you’ll be well-positioned to ask for a recommendation letter at the end of the program.

This program provides a total of 80 service hours. Loop Abroad is a certifying organization for the Presidential Volunteer Service Award, for which those hours are eligible.

You can receive 3 credits from our University Partner, Iowa Wesleyan University, for this program. (Additional fee applies.) Loop Abroad can also assist you in working to get credit directly from your school. If you are seeking credit from your college or university, please contact us for assistance.

Groups and Staff

Groups will have a maximum of 12 students each, with up to two groups on the project at a time. Your group will have its own veterinarian and you may learn from other Loop veterinarians, zoo staff, zoo veterinarians, and local experts as well.

Housing and Meals

During this program, we will live on the grounds of the Lory Park Zoo. Housing is in dorm-style rooms, and you will share rooms with other Loop students of the same gender. Bathrooms are shared. Students are not permitted to leave the grounds of the zoo except when we travel off-site as a group. Free wi-fi is available throughout the zoo grounds.

Meals are included in your tuition and will be eaten at the zoo, including a simple buffet-style breakfast (coffee, cereal, milk, toast, jam, fruit, and eggs, for example) and set meals for lunch and dinner. Vegan and vegetarian diets, as well as food allergies, can be accommodated with advanced notice. There are also refrigerators and a kitchen to store and cook your own snacks.

During the middle weekend of your program, housing and meals are included in your safari tour.

Locations

Midrand’s Lory Park Animal and Owl Sanctuary is located in Johannesburg, South Africa. (Johannesburg is the start and end point of our South Africa Veterinary Service program, which makes these programs very easy to join into a one-month adventure.) Lory Park is one of only six institutions in Africa to be accredited by the Pan African Association of Zoos and Aquaria, which is indicative of their high standards of safety, veterinary care, animal diets and enrichment practices, and overall welfare of the animals in their care.

Additionally, the park is one of four African institutions granted membership to the International Zoological Educators.

Lory Park opened in the year 2000 as a bird park, but quickly began accepting injured and trapped animals and has grown to be a sanctuary that is home to the following animals:

  • White and tawny lions
  • Siberian tiger
  • Jaguar
  • Leopard
  • Lynx
  • Puma
  • Owls
  • Eagles
  • Hornbills
  • Lorikeets
  • Cheetah
  • Black-footed cats
  • Serval
  • Caracal
  • Ocelot
  • Gibbons
  • Meerkats
  • Lemurs
  • Boa constrictors
  • Pythons
  • Chameleons
  • Tortoises
  • Hedgehogs
  • Bearded dragons

As you can see, cats, birds, primates, and reptiles make up the majority of the animals that you will work with at Lory Park. The park has a focus on education and conservation, and you will get the chance to visit two schools in the community to help teach about the importance of animals and conservation.

Lory Park is involved in researching and breeding black-footed cats, and students will get to observe and participate in this research. Black-footed cats are difficult to breed in captivity, so their successful breeding pair is an important contribution to the survival of this vulnerable animal whose population is decreasing in the wild.

You will notice that other than cats and primates, the park does not have many of the large “zoo animals” you might expect, such as elephants, giraffes, hippos. Fortunately, you will have the opportunity to see these and many more African animals on your weekend safari.

We will have a two-day safari to Pilanesberg National Park, the fourth largest game park in South Africa and home to elephants, rhinos, leopards, buffalo, lions, zebras, giraffes, cheetahs, hyenas, hippo, crocodiles, jackals, wild cats, various antelope species, and hundreds of bird species. Here, guided drives will give us a chance to see lots of African animals in the wild and explore a bit outside of the zoo complex.

Itinerary

This is a sample itinerary and is subject to change. It is provided here to give you a feel for your program.

You will arrive in Johannesburg on Sunday and we will travel to Lory Park Zoo as a group. Settle in and get oriented, get to know one another, and learn some of the basics of zoo life, because on Monday we have a full-day orientation to our new zoo home, including a tour, introduction to projects, safety training, and an introduction to the animals we’ll be working with during the project.

Loop Abroad is the only program through which you can participate in a behind-the-scenes veterinary course at the Lory Park zoo, and each average day includes a combination of:

  • Animal upkeep such as enclosure cleaning and food preparation.
  • Animal interaction such as medical care, training, enrichment, handling and physical exams, and weighing and measuring
  • Lecture related to hands-on course material and project-specific topics
  • Veterinary labs such as horse necropsy and surgical practice
  • Research, including ethograms and observation
  • Guest speakers, community outreach, or other special topics relating animal medicine to the broader conservation community

In addition to fun group activities in the evenings, such as a trivia night or movie night.

This program offers 60 veterinary hours and 10 research hours, which contribute to a total of 80 service hours for the zoo and its community.

Your group will be divided into smaller groups (approximately 5 students per group) for your morning animal activities so that you have a great opportunity to interact with the animals, get individual guidance, and observe up-close. For lectures, labs, and community activities, your group may be combined with another Loop Abroad group so that you can all learn together.

A typical weekday on the project might look something like this:

Morning: After breakfast, break into small groups to spend the morning with one of 6 animal groups – big cats, small cats, cubs, primates, reptiles, or birds of prey (you will spend project morning with each of these 6 groups).

During this time, you will prepare food for your animal group, clean their enclosures, learn about their behaviors and needs in captivity, and assist in training for certain behaviors. You may also provide physical exams, receive a hands-on anatomy lesson, learn proper handling technique, or assist in providing medical care or assessments, depending on the group and the animals’ needs.

Afternoon: Generally weekday afternoons will consist of three components:

  • Guest speaker: Examples of expert guest speakers include Phillipe Cronje from Chimp Eden, VULPRO vulture conservation, Joanne Meyer on Southern Ground Hornbills, and Robynn Ingle Moller on animal welfare in captivity.
  • Veterinary Lab: Examples of labs include horse necropsy, examination of color mutations in lorikeets, health checks and feet cleaning of donkeys, wing and nail clipping of parrots, and surgical practice lab.
  • Lecture: In general, veterinary lectures are approximately one hour and focus on the veterinary science behind your daily work. Examples would include nutrition of species in captivity, anatomy of big cats, and physical exams for reptiles.
  • Research hour: On the first day of the program, your small group will be assigned one of the six animal groups as your research focus for the duration of the program. You will perform approximately one hour of daily research (behavioral observation) on your animal group in order to inform your creation and implementation of an enrichment project.

Not all weekdays will follow this exact schedule. For example, there is one “veterinary day” per week where the zoo veterinarian team performs care such as vaccinations and deworming, and your schedule will be adjusted so that you can observe, assist, and learn.

We will have one day of community outreach, where we will visit two community schools and assist in the zoo’s projects at these schools, and we’ll have a chance to enjoy a relaxing encounter with the park’s ambassador animals.

On the middle weekend of the program, we will enjoy a two-day safari to Pilanesberg National Park, where we will get out into nature and enjoy some game drives at one of South Africa’s biggest national parks, where we have the chance to see elephants, hippos, crocodiles, giraffes, leopards, zebra, and all kinds of wild African species.

On the final Saturday of the program, you will implement your completed enrichment projects and present them to the other groups along with your research. We will depart on Sunday.

Safety

Students will fly as a group from New York and their group will be met at the airport on arrival by Loop Abroad staff. We will travel to Lory Park, where you will have a Loop Abroad orientation and settle in. The first full day of programming at the zoo is an orientation to the procedures, protocols, and animals there, including animal safety.

Students and Loop Abroad staff will live on the zoo property, which is surrounded by a high electric fence (common in South Africa). There are zoo staff who live on the property as well. In case of a medical emergency, vehicles are available at all times on property that can provide transport to the nearest private hospital, which is approximately a ten-minute drive.

We will have days off-campus, such as travel to local schools to educate about conservation and our overnight safari trip. This travel will be done as a group in private vehicles – students are not permitted to go out on their own in Johannesburg.

Reading List

Some books that might be interesting to students traveling to South Africa who want to learn more about South African culture and history, conservation, African animals, or veterinary medicine. (None of these are required reading.)

You can purchase any of the books on our suggested reading lists at the links below.*

Long Walk to FreedomLong Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela Amazon says, “Nelson Mandela is one of the great moral and political leaders of our time: an international hero whose lifelong dedication to the fight against racial oppression in South Africa won him the Nobel Peace Prize and the presidency of his country. Since his triumphant release in 1990 from more than a quarter-century of imprisonment, Mandela has been at the center of the most compelling and inspiring political drama in the world. As president of the African National Congress and head of South Africa’s antiapartheid movement, he was instrumental in moving the nation toward multiracial government and majority rule. He is revered everywhere as a vital force in the fight for human rights and racial equality.” Students participating in the Adventure Bonus Week: South Africa will visit Robbin Island, where Mandela was held prisoner, including a tour of his prison cell.

Cry the Beloved Country

Cry, the Beloved Country Amazon says, “An Oprah Book Club selection, Cry, the Beloved Country, the most famous and important novel in South Africa’s history, was an immediate worldwide bestseller in 1948. Alan Paton’s impassioned novel about a black man’s country under white man’s law is a work of searing beauty. …Cry, the Beloved Country is the deeply moving story of the Zulu pastor Stephen Kumalo and his son, Absalom, set against the background of a land and a people riven by racial injustice. Remarkable for its lyricism, unforgettable for character and incident, Cry, the Beloved Country is a classic work of love and hope, courage and endurance, born of the dignity of man.”

Soul of a LionSoul of a Lion: One Woman’s Quest to Rescue Africa’s Wildlife Refugees Amazon says, “For animal lovers, nature enthusiasts, and the vast readership for gripping true-life stories, this African saga is a must-read adventure. It chronicles the unique Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Namibia, where Marieta van der Merwe and her family, former wealthy cattle farmers, have sold land to buy and care for embattled wildlife. We meet Sam, the “AIDS” lion infected by mistake at a vet clinic. Boerjke, a baboon with epilepsy and Down syndrome. Savanna, the one-eyed lioness. And Marieta van der Merwe herself, the inspiring proprietor of Harnas who shares her home with needy wild animals. Survivor of an early life fraught with personal tragedy in the African Bush, she now devotes herself as care-giver and ambassador for wildlife and wildland. Told with insight, humor, and thrilling immediacy by author and Harnas volunteer Barbara Bennett, this story will captivate readers of all ages.”

Kaffir Boy

Kaffir Boy: An Autobiography–The True Story of a Black Youth’s Coming of Age in Apartheid South Africa Amazon says, “Mark Mathabane was weaned on devastating poverty and schooled in the cruel streets of South Africa’s most desperate ghetto, where bloody gang wars and midnight police raids were his rites of passage. Like every other child born in the hopelessness of apartheid, he learned to measure his life in days, not years. Yet Mark Mathabane, armed only with the courage of his family and a hard-won education, raised himself up from the squalor and humiliation to win a scholarship to an American university. This extraordinary memoir of life under apartheid is a triumph of the human spirit over hatred and unspeakable degradation. For Mark Mathabane did what no physically and psychologically battered “Kaffir” from the rat-infested alleys of Alexandra was supposed to do — he escaped to tell about it.”

White Man's GameWhite Man’s Game: Saving Animals, Rebuilding Eden, and Other Myths of Conservation in AfricaAmazon says, “The stunningly beautiful Gorongosa National Park, once the crown jewel of Mozambique, was nearly destroyed by decades of civil war. It looked like a perfect place for Western philanthropy: revive the park and tourists would return, a win-win outcome for the environment and the impoverished villagers living in the area. So why did some researchers find the local communities actually getting hungrier, sicker, and poorer as the project went on? And why did efforts to bring back wildlife become far more difficult than expected?… In pursuit of answers, Stephanie Hanes takes readers on a vivid safari across southern Africa, from the shark-filled waters off Cape Agulhas to a reserve trying to save endangered wild dogs. She traces the tangled history of Western missionaries, explorers, and do-gooders in Africa, from Stanley and Livingstone to Teddy Roosevelt, from Bono and the Live Aid festivals to Greg Carr, the American benefactor of Gorongosa. And she examines the larger problems that arise when Westerners try to “fix” complex, messy situations in the developing world, acting with best intentions yet potentially overlooking the wishes of the people who live there. Beneath the uplifting stories we tell ourselves about helping Africans, she shows, often lies a dramatic misunderstanding of what the locals actually need and want.”

Wildlife of Southern AfricaWildlife of Southern Africa: A field guide to the animals and plants of the region This field guide is a great reference for birds, trees, flowering plants, and small and large mammals you might see throughout your trip. It is helpful at the wildlife centre and also on safari, and is a great place to mark all the species you have seen and identified during your trip.

Resurrection ScienceResurrection Science: Conservation, De-Extinction and the Precarious Future of Wild Things Amazon says, “In a world dominated by people and rapid climate change, species large and small are increasingly vulnerable to extinction. In Resurrection Science, journalist M. R. O’Connor explores the extreme measures scientists are taking to try and save them, from captive breeding and genetic management to de-extinction. Paradoxically, the more we intervene to save species, the less wild they often become. In stories of sixteenth-century galleon excavations, panther-tracking in Florida swamps, ancient African rainforests, Neanderthal tool-making, and cryogenic DNA banks, O’Connor investigates the philosophical questions of an age in which we “play god” with earth’s biodiversity.

Each chapter in this beautifully written book focuses on a unique species–from the charismatic northern white rhinoceros to the infamous passenger pigeon–and the people entwined in the animals’ fates. Incorporating natural history and evolutionary biology with conversations with eminent ethicists, O’Connor’s narrative goes to the heart of the human enterprise: What should we preserve of wilderness as we hurtle toward a future in which technology is present in nearly every aspect of our lives? How can we co-exist with species when our existence and their survival appear to be pitted against one another?”

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"Loop Abroad provides us students with an educational and eye-opening program. The staff at Feracare made this once in a lifetime trip even more memorable. Having the ability to enhance the cheetah enclosures and volunteer our time to this wonderful facility was truly amazing."

Raelyn S., South Africa Veterinary Service 2017

University of Saskatchtwan