by DAVID ALLEN, USA
PROJECT: REPTILE CONSERVATION CENTRE
Wow! What an experience. The program at the Reptile Centre is absolutely spectacular. When they say you will get hands on experience they truly mean it.
Within my first week I was working with Puff adders, Snouted cobras, and Nile crocodiles. I really wanted to learn to work with venomous snakes, not simply watch someone work with one as I took notes. The Reptile Centre allows volunteers/interns the opportunity not only to learn how to properly handle and care for venomous snakes but scorpions and spiders as well.
Whether I am conducting a demonstration on venomous snakes of South Africa, cleaning the enclosure of a Cape cobra, or feeding a large Rock python, I am constantly learning and gaining valuable experience.
SNAKE CATCHING IN PRIVATE HOMES
Perhaps my favorite aspect of working at the centre is the callouts.
Within my first week I had gone on five snake callouts. You may be in the middle of medicating a Gaboon adder when all of the sudden you need to drive to a game farm to remove a Black mamba from a lodge, or a Snouted cobra from someone's shower.
Once the call comes in we must carefully stop what we are doing and get to the snake as fast as possible. These callouts not only save the snake and people from potential harm, but also provide the opportunity to educate the community about snakes.
Working at the Reptile Centre is not the only fun thing to do as a volunteer/intern. In my off time I have been swimming in the Blyde river, hiking along the Olifants river, and going on spontaneous night drives in search of wildlife.
You do not have to leave the volunteer house to see interesting animals. I have seen several snakes right outside the house, including a beautiful rock python.
I have had the opportunity to meet and work with some of the most respected herpetologist in South Africa. I had the opportunity to search for skinks and spitting cobras with one of the most respected reptile authors in Africa, as well as assist him with a photo shoot for a new book.
The team at the Reptile Centre are extremely passionate about their work and are more than willing to share their knowledge and experience.
The Reptile Centre is more than a park of snakes and lizards. Research, education, and conservation are the main purpose of the park. Just in the past two weeks I have been collecting snakes for DNA analysis, gathering data on the burrows of Golden-brown baboon spiders, and leading public demonstrations on Africa's most dangerous and venomous snakes.
Having experience with reptiles, I can truly say that there is nothing else like this in the world. I must admit, I looked at other volunteer/internship positions but nothing comes even close to what you can do and learn at this centre. I now understand why all the big names like Steve Irwin, Mark Oshea, Jeff Corwin, David Attenborough, and Austin Stevens have all utilized this centre as a resource for documentaries.
I absolutely love it here, so much so that I may extend my stay a bit longer! I would urge anyone interested in reptiles and/or reptile conservation to get here as soon as possible. I can assure you that you will not regret it.
In fact, you may never leave at all.
By David Allen, Arizona, USA
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