Caleigh Roach Testimonial – May 2019
Volunteering with AERU for the past four weeks has been a wonderful experience that I wish did not have to come to an end!
I am a third year undergraduate studying behavioural biology and looking to one day be a vet. I have strong interests in animal welfare, behaviour and research. I decided to volunteer with AERU because I wanted to gain behavioural field experience while being involved with an organisation working for better welfare. This past month has provided me with substantial knowledge in behaviour, educated me about the welfare problems that African elephants currently face and the possible solutions, and has provided me insight into the day to day workings of rehabilitation and animal sanctuaries.
Upon arrival and initial identification of the elephants, I began to learn skills that are useful and necessary for a career in this field. From herd activity and nearest neighbour, to preparing enrichments and data taking for Keisha Project, I always felt interested, challenged, and supported as I acquired this new knowledge. Participating in early morning dung walks and collecting samples to then prepare for hormone extraction when working in Fiela’s Lab, illustrated the ground up process of research. These activities were not only enjoyable but educational.
Over these past four weeks, my experiences in the field with the elephants and guides have been excellent. Watching the ten ellies interact with their environment, each other, and operate in their own manners has given me such valuable insight that a textbook could not. As I became increasingly comfortable with identification, their relationships began to stand out, and their differing personalities became apparent. After learning about stereotypical behaviours, displacement behaviours and SDB’s, I could better infer how the ellies were feeling and reacting to a situation. It was profound to think about these nervous ticks and behavioural correlates and the possible likeness of the elephant brain to ours. This experience has greatly intrigued me and I am unable to stop thinking about the ellies and everything we have yet to know about them!
I am so happy that I chose to join AERU for this (too) short time. My experiences working with Christina and Nicki of AERU were delightful; they are fantastic teachers and people who I will miss very much. The guides in the field were lovely and they also had a big part in making the experience so positive. All of the staff at Knysna and with AERU were very kind and helpful.
I will miss Frank the cat so very much, the adorable ducks and geese, and all of the animals at KEP, and I will most definitely miss Sally, Nandi, Thandi, Thato, Keisha, Shungu, Mashudu, Shanti, Amari, and Madiwa! The moments that I have had with these elephants; (Keisha reaching out her trunk to grab my hand, Shungu SS while I touched his face), have meant so much to me and are unforgettable. My Shungu crush also makes leaving so so hard! I hope to be back at AERU again someday and to keep in touch in the meantime!!
(please tell Shungu he’s handsome for me, the confidence boost is good for him.)