Nikki Lewis – Volunteer, July 2018
Elephants have always been a special part of my life, from being my favourite animal as a child to spending 4 week with AERU. This trip started out as one of those dreams you never think will actually come true, but I wanted to do something extra special for my 30th Birthday and thanks to the support of my family finally made a dream come true.
This is definitely a life changing experience, the AERU team are amazing and being able to contribute to such vital research is exciting. It gives you a sense of accomplishment, and makes you feel part of something so much bigger than yourself. Everyone is so welcoming, friendly and helpful, and it is so easy to fit in.
Learning the history of AERU from Dr Debbie was fascinating and Clare’s presentation on SDB’s, though very humorous, helped me understand just how much elephants are like humans and the work they do is so important in making captive elephants all over the world happier and healthier.
Being able to spend time in the field, watching elephants for most of the day was fantastic, learning how to identify them and getting to know their very different and individual personalities was so much fun. I know you shouldn’t have favourites, but one ellie touched my heart more and I will always remember Keisha with the most fondness. Of course as well as the ellie’s are the Guides who are all very hard working and inspirational men, that share your passion for the elephants they care for and are a fountain of experience and knowledge, spending time with them is very humbling and I have made some lovely friends.
I also love being creative any chance I get, and have loved working with Christina, who is just as nutty about craft (and ellie’s) as I am. Its great helping make stock of stuffed or rubber elephants to sell to raise money for their research, (some of which I brought myself, of course). I also had the opportunity to carve a pumpkin enrichment for World Elephant Day on 12th August which was fun.
Even the not so interesting parts of the job, like cleaning the Boma or collecting dung make this a unique experience, and gives you a good daily work out as well lol. As well as days spent in the rain and cold, but everything you do everything you see is well worth any weather.
I can honestly say this place will always be special to me, especially the ellie’s and the people. People say Africa can capture your heart and KEP and AERU definitely captured mine.