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Imire: Rhino and Wildlife Conservation

I am a sixty year old retired attorney, and I was looking for a volunteer program that focused on endangered animals. A friend of mine, also a retired attorney, had participated in similar programs over the past few years. She located the Imire program on-line, and I stumbled upon the video, "There's a rhino in my house." When the two of us saw the video, about a baby rhino being raised by the founders of the program because his mother was killed by poachers, we were hooked. We both have had experiences raising wild orphaned animals, as adults and as children, since we both come from families who respected and loved animals. After all, who could love and cherish wild animals more than these founders, who were raising a rhino, a warthog and a hyena all at once, because the animals were orphaned?

My friend and I spent two weeks at Imire, performing various jobs such as repairing wash-outs in the road (as ex-attorneys, we were thrilled to be part of what we called a "chain gang"), pulling down unsafe watchtowers, removing old fencing, and constructing new platforms needed to climb upon elephants. (Although a program to raise endangered black rhinos, Imire is also the home for 5 elephants.)

Tatenda, the star of "There's a rhino in my house," was housed in a "boma" next to the volunteer house. He is a strapping seven-year-old black rhino, but still enjoys human company. My trusty travelling companion and I would often pull up chairs in the evening and talk about various world problems with him, which would often result in an ear and neck massage for Tatenda.

We also spent a lot of time with four of the elephants (the fifth appeared to be imprinted on buffaloes, so ignored us and the other elephants.) We cleaned their nests each morning, trundling countless wheelbarrows full of elephant manure away. (Being avid gardeners, my trusty companion and I excel at manure trundling.) We were also able to help train one of the elephants, and of course play with them, which consisted of swimming with the elephants.

I never tired of seeing the elephants. Each sighting was magical, since they are such majestic creatures and look like they are moving in slow motion. One evening, while walking Tatenda home with his guard/handler, I glimpsed the elephants and their handlers coming through the woods behind us. Walking between a seemingly contented rhino and four elephants made everything right with the world.

I was also very taken with the group of women who worked at the primary and secondary schools at Imire. These women were teachers and administrators,who devoted themselves to the students and school by working all day and then sewing at night to raise money for the school. They also purchased a drink, like our "ensure," to give the children before they left school, since some families could not afford to pack a lunch. Even though living in the most overwhelming poverty, these children appeared to be happy. It made me feel ashamed of my own privileged lifestyle.

I was never bored at Imire and felt no desire during my two weeks to leave and go somewhere else.

I also failed to mention that I suffer from Parkinson's. My husband was afraid that I might become a target for muggers, etc., because at times my disability is very apparent. However, quite the opposite occurred. I was "targeted" by the kindness of the people around me, even strangers who rushed to help if I had a medication brown-out and fell or became very stiff. Zimbabwe is a nation of care-takers. My greatest wish is to return to Zimbabwe and Imire again some day.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Zimbabwe
Posted: Feb 26, 2015
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

Frontier

I’ve been working for Frontier for a month as the Marine Research Officer and I’m loving every minute. The people on camp are great and the location we are in is fantastic! We carry out baseline surveys on the local reefs, mangroves, and seagrass meadows to monitor for any change in reef health or species diversity. The data we collect is then used to produce eight science reports a year on our findings as well as numerous other articles written with results from side projects. All the volunteers on the project help gather the data and everybody helps out around camp. The living conditions on camp are very basic with long drop toilets and outdoor showers but it is nice to get back to basics and live without the luxuries of home, it really makes you appreciate what you’ve got.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Tanzania
Posted: Feb 23, 2015
Overall:
9
Support:
10
Value:
10

Frontier

I had just completed my degree in Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology and I decided to go to Belize to try and gain some field experience to improve my CV. And I'm so glad I did.. Belize has some really successful marine reserves and it was inspiring to see the contrast between reefs within the reserves and outside. I learnt how to survey fish, corals, seagrass and mangroves as well as getting experience teaching fish identification to the high school kids.

We did all this whilst living in at a camp on the northside of Island Caye Caulker, which is the most beautiful place I've ever seen. However, I feel like people should be warned it's no five star accommodation, in fact its not even a 1 star, as everyone sleeps in a hammock in a shed, your constantly being bitten by sandflies or mossies and there's no internet or running water. So you only get the internet around 2 or 3 times a week when everyone goes into town and you shower using a bucket full of rain water! But now I miss my hammock and I miss showering with rain water! Plus, from the camp pier I saw Bottlenose Dolphins swimming just 2m away from the pier, we would constantly spot the Southern Stingrays, Nurse Sharks and we even got to see the Spotted Eagle Rays jumping right out of the water. So if you can handle the sometimes overwhelming amount of bites then you'll get the opportunity to see some spectacular wildlife.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Belize
Posted: Feb 22, 2015
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
8

Frontier

I would say that more young people should do this sort of project, as it helps improve a lot of life skills. I would say that once you have arrived in country that everyone is very helpful and they plan extra curricular activities every weekend.
You have a lot of freedom, so you can choose if you want to have a more relaxing day or keep yourself occupied all day.
It's been one of the best moments of my life, especially because I am interested I'm conservation and would like a career in it. I'm doing a BTEC certificate on primates encounters and I'm finding that very interesting.

I was first shocked at the overall price of the project and I think that puts a lot of young people off as it's very rare for them to have that much spare money unless there parents help pay, however I would say it's worth every penny.

Also pre departure of the project there is a lot of things needed to be completed and I think there should be a more simple layout, so it's easier to complete them tasks.

Overall it's a great experience once out here and I think it should be compulsory for young people to do a type of volunteering like this.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Costa Rica
Posted: Feb 21, 2015
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
9

Conservation Travel Africa

I enrolled in the equine programme and was so excited when I found out I would be riding alongside Judy Travers. She has been a bit of a hero of mine for a while now, and her passion and enthusiasm for Imire and the surrounding community is so undeniable and inspiring!

She assigned us each a horse depending on ability. I got to ride a beautiful pony - Maware - who was a bit green, but we just clicked, and I had the most fantastic time riding her. We would meet Judy in the early morning and set out on our mission for the day. Sometimes it was rounding up cattle, or counting the new babies of wildebeest, or checking on the babies and mums of other herds to make sure everyone was in good health. The cattle rounding was so much fun - you set off with a group of cattle in sight and yoop, whistle and yee-hah until they go in the direction you want. It satisfied every little girl dream I had ever had about becoming a cowgirl all in one session.

The rides out over the Imire property were just breathtaking, and we got to see many areas and sights that you just would not see by vehicle.We could get right up close to the wildebeest herds, and walk quietly past as the sable grazed in the distance. I remember cantering through a beautiful patch of land after a long ride with the others, zebras in the foreground and empala watching on from afar and just thinking 'this is exactly what I had hoped for when I had signed up to Imire.

I am not kidding when I say I could pitch a tent on the vol house lawn and live at Imire forever. The place is incredible. My first impression came as Manyati (the Imire driver) dropped me at the volunteer house. The sunset was literally the most beautiful I had ever seen. Gloria, the dams resident hippo, was yawning with her massive wide open mouth just a hundred or so metres away, the insects were chirping the loudest i have ever heard, and I had already met three awesome volunteers. Catherine and Mike at the vol house were so much fun, and I could listen to their stories forever.

There is no mucking around, each morning we were up at the crack of dawn and getting on with the activities for the day. Might I add here, my first activity was clearing out Tatendas food pen and attaching a 'rhino proof' gate to keep him out… HA! It had a suspicious rhino horn shaped dent in it the next day..

What I loved so much about Imire is that it is not a sugar coated, 'easy' volunteer experience. You really get stuck in and do things that help with the running of the park. I wanted to be able to get a sweat on, and feel like I was truly contributing. We built roads, painted fences, help track wandering animals and so much more. The rewards were being able to spend time up close and personal with the animals, like Tafika the baby rhino and her mum Shanu, or walking the elephants back to their ele-beds, or being diverted to see a massive python after its kill.

I felt particularly privileged to be involved in a huge community project involving Imire, which involved traveling to designated points around Wedza, and administering rabies vaccinations and first aid to up to 3000 dogs. It was awesome to see everyone turn up from afar - through only word of mouth 'advertising' and have their dogs vaccinated. It was difficult at time to see the vastly different conditions the people and animals lived in, but so so awesome to give them education about animal care. Judy was so well respected by these people, I admired her giving them advice on planting crops and preparing for the seasons ahead.

On my final drive out as I was leaving for the airport, the entire journey of giraffe surrounded the driveway (I like to think they were saying goodbye) and all I could think was two weeks was definitely not enough. I am already planning on going back! If you want an experience that fills your soul and opens your mind, and then pours you a beer at the end of the day, go to Imire.. just be prepared to want to go back time and time again.

Program: Volunteer Abroad
Location: Africa
Posted: Feb 19, 2015
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10

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