Animal care students take a walk on the wild side

A group of animal care staff and students from Northumberland College's Kirkley Hall campus have returned from a once in a lifetime educational trip to Africa where they observed animals in their natural habitats and learnt about behaviour and wildlife conservation.
A group of animal care staff and students from Northumberland College's Kirkley Hall campus have returned from a once in a lifetime educational trip to Africa where they observed animals in their natural habitats and learnt about behaviour and wildlife conservation.

PONTELAND students took a walk on the wild side in the trip of a lifetime to enhance their animal care studies.

A group of 30 students and staff from Northumberland College’s Kirkley Hall campus took part in an African adventure as an extension of their animal management and animal care diploma courses.

The group began their trip in South Africa, where they visited the iSimangaliso Wetland Park and Mkuze Game Reserve to look at the effectiveness of specialised conservation programmes and breeding projects for endangered species.

They took a cruise up the estuary, seeing crocodiles and hippopotamus, and learnt about the impact of opencast mining on the area. It was followed by an open safari, where they were shown how to live alongside nature and saw leopards, birds, warthogs and elephants.

After four days the group headed for Swaziland and the Hlane Royal National Park, and spent three days at Kruger National Park, which has more species of wildlife than any other African game sanctuary.

The students enjoyed a guided bushwalk to learn about communication between animals, and they saw hyenas, leopards and servals during a night drive.

The final leg of the trip was to Moholoholo Mountain View private nature reserve where the students spent time with staff to see the role they play in saving endangered animals.

The group also observed the breeding process for cheetahs and saw how the centre reintroduced them into controlled areas of Africa to increase their chances of survival.

Kirkley Hall tutor Vicky McGarry, who set up the trip, said; “Our students really pulled together and worked well as a team to organise events to raise funds for the trip and during the time spent in Africa.

“The trip has reinforced their love and interest in animals and their desire to succeed in their training towards a career working with them.

“I am so proud to have been a part of the group out in Africa and have seen these learners grow as individuals in this magical part of the world, and I have no doubt that every student will reflect on this once in a lifetime opportunity to visit Africa with a smile.”

The students will use their experience to build on the skills used in caring for animals at Kirkley Hall Zoological Gardens.