An experience too good to miss, but don’t take our word for it. Here’s what some of our previous interns have to say about taking part in the Program...
Kelsey James-Kavanaugh (pictured below) interned at our Livingstone project in Zambia
‘I felt like I was part of the team and consider the Lion Encounter crew to be my extended African family. My ideas were always considered and I always felt like I belonged. The Lions Manager is constantly working and trying new things to help improve the lives of the lions. Everything she does is for their benefit. Being so hands-on with the lions was an amazing experience that I don’t think I would have been able to get anywhere else. By the end, I was very bonded with them and it was really hard to leave them behind.’
Sille Jensen joined ALERT as an intern at Antelope Park in Zimbabwe
‘It took some time to get to know everybody and how things work, but from day one, everyone was so sweet and kind, so I felt part of the team quickly and even though I’m now back at home, I still feel like I’m part of it.
I loved every moment at Antelope Park. I loved to get up early in the mornings knowing that I was about to see all the lions and elephants. The staff were very kind to help in all kind of situations, which I really appreciate, and it was always a pleasure to work with the lion handlers, elephant handlers and especially Karoline, the Lions Manager.
I have gained a lot confidence. I now know what I want to do with my life and my internship has given me so much knowledge in how I can achieve it. Not only am I a step further towards my dream, but I have also learned so much about myself, Africa and Zimbabwe, and then of course about wildlife. I will forever be grateful for this trip and for all that I have experienced and achieved while I was working at Antelope Park and I will definitely come back!’
Heleen Wilkes was also based in Zimbabwe at Antelope Park
‘I feel a lot more confident within myself, to make decisions and work alone. I am confident to go off and do things that need doing, rather than wait to be asked or told. And due to all the trust that was placed in me, I now know that I am a responsible and trustworthy person, with the skills to care for animals. I am confident that should a lion cub ever need to be hand-reared at my work in the UK, I would have all the knowledge and skills to do it.’
Animal Management intern Andrea Joyner (pictured below) was at our project in Livingstone
‘I gained my first experience and knowledge of lions interning at Lion Encounter. I am happy I was able to work with them in their natural habitat rather than a zoo in the US where it snows. Seeing them in their element was such an unforgettable feeling and I will take all that I learned about lions and use it in my future positions as an animal professional. I felt very much a part of the team. I also gained friends I could never forget nor replace. I miss them every day! I absolutely loved the staff too. Everyone was so friendly. This has been the best out of all my internships. I really felt like family living at Lion Encounter and I left a part of me there which I shall return to.’
Peta Sutherland (pictured below) also joined ALERT in Livingstone
‘I was lucky enough to have already been to Lion Encounter in Livingstone a couple of years earlier, so I was already quite aware of what I was getting myself into. While my limits were tested both physically and mentally, I think I was useful in my role. I had worked with captive wildlife before, so was prepared for and understood the messier jobs that needed to be done. So, I was wasn’t one to shy away from the more physically (and mentally) draining activities; always willing to give an extra hand - it’s for the lions after all. In fact, some of my most hilarious memories of my internship were during meat prep!
An internship with ALERT is a great way to explore Africa. There were so many activities available outside the project, along with safe and reliable transport. I loved being able to travel to nearby activities including white water rafting and Victoria Falls. Also, being able to see white rhinos in the wild multiple times.
I really appreciate what the team at Lion Encounter and ALERT do. Everyone was so friendly and willing to help me or give advice when needed. I was always involved with decision making and my thoughts and ideas were always considered. A lot of time and effort goes into ensuring the program runs smoothly and continues to be successful. Leaving the project was pretty emotional!’
Emily Seidel (pictured below) interned in Animal Management in Gweru and the following year returned to intern again, this time in Livingstone
‘Arriving at Antelope Park was quite daunting at first, especially with it being my first time in Africa, but the staff and other interns made me feel at ease and welcomed my seemingly never-ending questions. Being a hands-on learner and being flexible greatly helped in feeling my way through the beginning of my internship. There is nothing quite like seeing a bachelor pride of seven big lions charge down their enclosure for a feed, or collecting data while the walking cubs chase each other around the African bush. The Intern Program had a lot responsibility associated with it, but I know I learned much more from my internship than I would have if I only volunteered with ALERT.
I sympathized so much with ALERT's approach to lion conservation that I interned for a second time, this time at the Livingstone project in Zambia. Working with the Lions Manager was easily one of the most rewarding experiences. She has so much knowledge and truly cares about every single lion. Even after being with her for two months, I still feel like I could have learned more from her. Her relationship with the Lion Encounter vets I believe greatly benefits the project, and it allowed me to gain more wildlife health experience.’
Stephanie Arnold joined the Program as an Animal Management intern at Antelope Park
‘As an Animal Management intern, my primary contribution to keeping the lions healthy and happy was the implementation of a behavior enrichment program. I am particularly proud of the success of this enrichment, particularly with the adult lions. I was also pleased to assist with research into play behavior. Field work is my passion and talent, and while I was eager to learn about the general care of lions in this internship, it was excellent to be able to help in a scientific capacity. One of the highlights was watching the Ngamo pride, which was exactly what I had hoped for when I applied for this internship. I am also very happy that I was able to visit the ALERT project in Livingstone in Zambia.
This experience has certainly reinforced my passion for social carnivores, the evolution and adaptive benefits of group-living, and conservation in general. It also reassured me that decision to work in field biology was the right one. Spending time in the Ngamo site was easily the best part of my stay. I have been very impressed by the ALERT program and hope to contribute to the program’s goals in a research capacity in the future. I loved nearly everything about it, from watching the cubs practice their techniques and learn to work together on hunts, to watching the Ngamo pride show off how captive lions can be astoundingly successful in a semi-wild environment. These behaviors and others were more than enough to convince me that a rehabilitation program is worth exploring.’
A vet nurse by trade, Emma Townson (pictured below, right) was based in Livingstone for eight weeks
‘As a veterinary nurse I felt my experience treating many kinds of animals could be helpful to the project as well as giving me some valuable experience in other areas of animal welfare. I really enjoyed the responsibility I was given; whether monitoring meat stocks, daily health checks on the lions or helping out with the research and looking for changes in behaviour.
Interning has given me a greater understanding of what is involved on a day-to-day basis in running the project. So much work goes on behind the scenes, and it’s been an eye-opener to see what happens “backstage”. The Lions Manager’s been fantastic in showing me the ropes and she does a brilliant job. The staff are great and made me feel so welcome -as an intern you really are part of the team. For anyone considering an internship with ALERT, my advice would be DO IT!’
Krista Cope joined our project in Livingstone as an Animal Management intern
‘By caring for the cubs and ensuring their health and safety, as well as the older lions, I was able to take knowledge from my biology background and observational skills learned from a previous big cat internship. As an intern, I felt included in situations with handlers and other staff, as I was accountable for observing their conditions on a daily basis. My ideas were always welcomed and considered. Because of ALERT, I gained a better sense of everything involved in conservation and how big an effect the community has on the project.’
Torie Hilley (pictured below) joined the Program at Antelope Park, and has since worked as ALERT's Principle Researcher with both the Ngamo and Dambwa release prides
‘I interned with ALERT because of the hands on experience I was promised. The program was NOT a disappointment and I have gained the BEST experience anyone could ask for that a book or classroom could never achieve. Trying to describe what I did there is difficult to express in words. It was fantastic, memorable, challenging and emotional; it tested my limits. I learned to adapt and act in a second and acquired a true feel of what this kind of career would be like in a conservation program. The super nice and caring staff ensure that you are kept busy, but make sure you are enjoying your time. I gained knowledge in managing people and lion welfare and behavior. I thank you with the utmost gratitude.’
Viviana Hernandez del Castillo was also an Animal Management intern at Antelope Park
‘I gained a lot of self-knowledge during my internship. I proved to myself that I can be capable of achieving my goals and that I can do whatever I want because I know I can. That even if I don’t have all the resources, I can solve even the hardest problems, because that’s what Africa shows you; just being the best of you. There was a day when we were putting some hormone implants in the lionesses and I was able to put an I.V. in a lion; that day I realized that even if I was so far away from home, that was the most amazing thing I’ve ever done.’
Liz Babbitt (pictured below) was an Animal Management and Wildlife Conservation Research at Antelope Park
‘This internship helped me to develop confidence and leadership skills that I had very little of previously. I was really treated as part of the team. I’ve seen the skill, hard work, and cooperation that goes into running the project and I learned a lot just by watching the staff do what they do. I truly respect them and, the more I worked with them, the more I came to respect myself. Also working with the volunteers really cultivated my leadership skills. I was able to help a lot with the management of the lions, in terms of cub rearing and behaviour enrichment. As I study animal behaviour, this was where my skills and experience were best utilised. Even in my three months as an intern, I felt that I made a difference. I was also able to see first-hand how ALERT strives to and successfully softens human-wildlife conflict between the people of Africa and the lion.
It's hard to convey just how much I gained from my internship. It went better than I could have hoped. Every day I helped conserve a species I have loved and admired my whole life. I wouldn’t give up this experience for anything and I feel so lucky and thankful for all the wonderful people at ALERT who made it possible. Until next time; I won’t stop fighting the good fight. AFRICA NEEDS LIONS.’
Animal Management intern Elizabeth Remming was also based at Antelope Park
'I gained knowledge and experience that I could have never imagined getting anywhere else. Being able to work so hands-on with the lions and elephants was the greatest experience that I could have asked for and taught me so much more than anything I could have learned in a classroom. I was able to practice many different techniques to care for and manage these animals and it will help me tremendously in my future career. I learned so much from this internship that will stay with me forever and I cannot wait to return to Africa and continue in this line of work.'
Sara Bylin (pictured below, driving project volunteers) was a Project Management intern at Antelope Park. She is now the Volunteer Manager for Wildlife Encounter in Livingstone, Zambia
‘Project Management is both challenging and rewarding. Although being self-organised may be an essential skill, it is just as important to be able to adapt to the unpredictable - or as the locals say 'Just make a plan'. Every day offers you new challenges and opportunities to develop as an individual. You can meet people from all corners of the globe and make friends for life, while immersing yourself in the depths of the African bush. I loved every minute of it!’
David Hollingworth (pictured below) was based at our Livingstone project and drew on his many skills to assist in the management and operation of the volunteering program
‘I am passionate about this project - for me the only truly holistic and realistic conservation project currently operating in Africa.’
Debbie Smail (pictured below) was also based in Livingstone
‘I am a 40 something year old IT Project Manager who lives in London. I decided to take a career break and wanted to do something worthwhile and completely different to my usual day job. Africa came calling and I was fortunate enough to discover the ALERT Internship Program which allowed me to fulfil my desire to spend some time on a conservation or community project - in fact it allowed me to do both. I spent three fabulous months in Livingstone working as a Volunteer Co-ordinator which involved organising the volunteers' day-to-day activities and being involved in some of the community activities too. I was very impressed with how organised and committed the team were and found it easy to get involved straight away.
My time at Livingstone not only gave me the opportunity to do something totally different and rewarding, but also allowed me to live in a National Park, walk with the lions, meet a lot of great volunteers, work with the local Zambian staff and simply to enjoy Africa! One of my favourite experiences was being involved in the conservation education program at a local school, which involved teaching the children about various conservation topics and taking them on a field trip into the National Park. It was humbling to see such a polite bunch of kids really appreciate what they were seeing in the park and just being so keen to learn! All in all, I had a fabulous experience and most of all it was a privilege to spend time with all the lions, and to just watch and learn from these extraordinary creatures.’
Holly Cherise Pennington (pictured below) joined ALERT as a Wildlife Conservation Research intern at Antelope Park. The experience meant so much to her, that she returned again the following year. Holly has now joined the ALERT team in Livingstone to research the Dambwa release pride
‘Becoming a Wildlife Conservation Research Intern with ALERT has been the most real and fulfilling thing I have ever done with my life. I have spent every day with lions ranging from four weeks old to 16 years old and, due to this, I have got to know personalities and characteristics of individual lions, as well as social hierarchies within enclosures and the Ngamo release site. I've collected a wide range of data including social, behavioural and hunting data, along with mane assessments and group dynamics.
I felt very much a part of the research team. Yvonne, the Principle Researcher, is one of the easiest people to talk to and discuss ideas with. All of my ideas were considered, thought through, and implemented if found to be useful. I was given responsibilities within the research team that were individual to me and meant that there was no overlapping of duties or micromanaging. Trust was given to complete all tasks and responsibilities. I felt included in everything and definitely felt a part of the team.
The experience of being an intern through ALERT has left marks on my memory, on my consciousness and on my heart. I've taken so much experience and knowledge home with me and hopefully I have left something good in return. Like they say ‘A bad day in Africa is still better than a good day at home!’ It sounds corny, but I have found my passion.’
Helen Mylne (pictured below) joined ALERT for a full year as a Wildlife Conservation Research intern, firstly in Livingstone, Zambia for six months
'I was very much included as a part of the team and was definitely treated like a colleague. My ideas were taken seriously and frequently acted upon. Staff, interns and volunteers all worked together as one, with the staff simply taking a leading role to make sure everything was done efficiently and to a good standard.
Getting to know ALERT’s researcher Dabwiso and working closely with him was a definite highlight, and all the other staff too. When we saw a herd of at least 100 elephants all at once, it was just incredible. There are very few feelings better than recognising an elephant without needing to use the identification folders, and that feels even better when it’s out in the national park and the elephant is right there in front of you! On the community side, I loved how eager the kids were to learn. But, the best part would have to be the days we took face paints and balloons to Maunga Kids Club, and seeing their pure delight and excitement. It’s a wonderful feeling to know that you are making a difference right then and there.
My research skills have definitely improved, in terms of understanding research techniques, writing research proposals, and inputting and analysing data. I have gained so much from this experience and will never forget it. I have made some wonderful new friends, met amazing people, and seeing the animals in the park and the lions at Dambwa are memories I will have forever.'
Helen's second six months of her internship were spent in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe
'The highlights of my internship in Victoria Falls were pretty much every time I saw animals in the park! The 10th of August was just incredible - four wild lions with males fighting over females, and then the first cheetah in the park for a decade! That was absolutely amazing. Also, sunrise shoots by the river were fantastic, and night drives were freezing but great fun as they are very different to other drives. I really enjoyed hyena den monitoring too, as again it was something a bit different to the other research activities. Also, the time that we saw a herd of a minimum 80 elephants was a definite highlight!
Outside of the park, my highlights were going to the Old People’s Home to cook them an Easter breakfast, and teaching children to play volleyball. I really enjoyed the times that we went camping in the National Park, and the nights just sat around the fire having a chat with the other interns, volunteers and staff.
I have gained an enormous amount from my intern experience. I feel I have improved in everything from environmental research practices, to dealing with people from all over the World. I learned a lot about myself, my limits, and my strengths and weaknesses. I have learned so much about the African wildlife and what the various threats to them are, and best of all I have gained the ‘Africa Addiction’ that I’m sure will never go away - I’ll be back!
Thank you so much to everyone who made my experience what it was. I can safely say that I will never forget it. The experiences, the information, and the memories are things that stay with me forever, and will be extremely useful to me in my chosen career of ecology and conservation biology. The experience has led to a much-increased love for these areas of science, and my determination to enter this field as a researcher is now stronger than ever!'
Shelby Matevich joined the team in Livingstone as a Wildlife Conservation Research intern
‘I love this Program! I learned a lot about the type of research done with lions and elephants and what kind of information is important to gather. I found this very valuable. I was particularly interested in this program because I wanted to have research experience before applying to graduate schools. The type of research I assisted with is exactly the experience I needed. I feel very fortunate to have been welcomed here to do it.’
Lorna Harvey (pictured below) was a Wildlife Conservation Research intern based at Antelope Park
‘Going into Stage Two several times a day seeing the dynamics of the pride change throughout the months and being able to watch kills and many chases was a privilege. I gained a lot of research experience and was able to identify lions by the smallest of features on their bodies or how they walk. Being able to observe and interpret behaviour is a massive addition to my experience, especially in the unique situation of Stage Two. All the experience I have gained has enabled me to apply successfully for a Master’s Degree and I aim to give back as much as I can to ALERT as a thank you for the opportunity and all they have given me.’
Genevieve Hayes joined the team in Livingstone and had this to say about her experience
‘It was great to see ex-situ conservation in action in terms of understanding in greater depth the process of captive breeding lions. It was nice to see such happy healthy lions who are obviously cared about. I feel that the project fully utilised the breadth of my skills base and enabled me to be involved in a variety of different aspects of the project which I enjoyed. I gained a lot of respect for this project through working there and it definitely confirmed that conservation work in Africa is what I want to do in the future. I am sure I will be back. I think the work you do and the range of the projects to include not just the future of the lions but the livelihoods of the local communities is incredible and I am so happy I was a part of it.’
Dabwiso Sakala (pictured below) interned in Wildlife Conservation Research. He is now part of ALERT’s research team in Livingstone
‘During my placement, I very much enjoyed helping out with the field researchers for the lions in the release site (stage two). This has given me an experience of how lions in the wild behave. Furthermore, ALERT’s community outreach to the kids about literacy and conservation has been a wonderful experience. Certainly not forgetting the amazing lion walks that have given me memories that will last a lifetime.
Through my internship, I have come to appreciate the importance of environmental conservation. During my time with the kids for Conservation Education, I learnt that the only way to conserve Africa’s natural resources is to begin with the younger generation. I really think this program is doing a very good thing in conservation of the lions by involving the local communities. The work that ALERT is doing in giving back to the community will help the locals to see the benefits of conservation. Thank you for being proactive and continue doing the good work.’
Alexander Cloonan was a Wildlife Conservation Research intern at Antelope Park
‘Following my training in observing lions, it was clear that conservation biology centred around the African lion was a career I wish to pursue. Every moment spent observing one of the most magnificent animals on Earth was a highlight. Although you never make contact with the release pride, you see the bonds forming between pride members and the struggles internally when witnessing conflict amongst them as well.
This internship has given me confidence to make a plan and carry it out, the wisdom to understand the limitations of each project and an indescribable amount of happiness knowing that I have been able to partake in an ongoing effort to restore Zimbabwe’s ecological status.’
Jo Briffitt (pictured below) joined ALERT at our Livingstone project, where she spent eight weeks as a Wildlife Conservation Research intern
‘I felt very much part of the research team and enjoyed working with them. Everyone’s ideas were always considered and discussed and I felt I could contribute to improving data collection and recording methods. I felt that my skills enabled me to quickly get involved with the research and I felt confident in doing so. The data I assisted in collecting will be of good use to ALERT and the future of the lions there. In addition to this, the elephant and tree surveys were good to be a part of as, once completed, will benefit the wider area and community.
Highlights of my internship included meeting such amazing people, seeing Victoria Falls and getting so close to such incredible animals; not only lions but wild elephant and hippo. Overall, the biggest highlight was finally achieving my dreams of working with ALERT and its incredible lions.
It was very good to put into practice everything I have learnt from university and have taught myself about lion behaviour so it benefitted me greatly. I feel I have gained everything I wanted to out of this Internship and thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it.’
Morgan Kirzinger also interned at our Livingstone project
‘The research staff were amazing to work with and such good mentors. I gained a tremendous amount of knowledge about lions and animal behaviour. I have learned so much about Africa, its environment, the people and the animals. I feel that ALERT is on the right track and doing excellent work. ALERT will do amazing things and has already accomplished a lot. Some highlights included tracking a wild nomadic lion, tracking elephant movements and setting up lighting systems to help mitigate human / elephant conflict.’
Having previously volunteered in Livingstone, Baylea Brauner (pictured below) was eager to return, this time as a Wildlife Conservation Research intern with ALERT
‘I felt very much at home every time I was out doing research. I always had a role in what was going on and I was able to still feel confident in my abilities even if I had to ask a million questions. Being able to do the research that I did was incredible, and it’s something I’ll be able to use in my schooling and future careers. The staff were incredible as well, they make each volunteer/intern feel part of the family immediately, and I loved being able to create lifelong bonds with the people I met!
From this internship, I’ve gained skills that I can use in my university degree and hopefully later on when I start looking at professions and careers. This research opportunity is something I’ll be able to rely on and use for the rest of my life. I’ve gained so many new memories, and built on friendships I made in Livingstone last year. Easily the best time of my life, so thank you!’
Jaime Galan Elvira interned in Wildlife Conservation Research with our team in Livingstone.
‘I am very thankful for all the patience showed by the staff while I was learning. It was one of the best experiences in my life, both professional and personal. The team was extremely friendly and welcoming from the beginning, the learning process was so enjoyable and easy, and the activities were so much fun and rewarding. I have nothing but appreciation for everyone in the project.
I am extremely thankful, because I feel like I have learnt a lot of new things and enhanced others. I wish I had more time to keep learning, but I am going home with a good background and the best experience ever. I now feel even more that I have still so much to learn and cannot be more excited for the future using all this experience.
I feel nothing but the biggest respect for what ALERT is doing. I now have a better view of the issues and real situation and I know a bit better how challenging it is and how easy it seems from home. I would say keep working so hard, you are definitely changing things for the better!’
Emily Drewry (pictured below) first joined ALERT as an Elephant Research assistant before returning to Livingstone, this time as a Wildlife Conservation Research intern.
‘I was able to participate in and add a lot of research over my six weeks here, which is a great feeling. We identified new elephants and completed many activity budgets, which I hope adds to the long-term goals that ALERT is working towards to help these animals. I used a lot of the research skills I learned last year, and I hope I get to return and use them again next year! I always felt a part of the team and I feel very close to the staff here, as well as the other interns and volunteers.
On my last day of work, we saw over 50 elephants in the morning and then all 12 Dambwa lions were present during our last research session. It was the perfect way to end an incredible experience. I gained more experience with some amazing animals, new friends, and six weeks of my life I will never forget. I am so grateful to ALERT for giving me some of the best days of my life. Until next time!’
Rebecca Mayer (pictured below, right) joined ALERT as a Wildlife Conservation Research intern in Livingstone
‘During my time in Zambia I was able to gain a lot of hands on knowledge, which has encouraged me to pursue a degree in zoology and hopefully a career in behavioral research. Everyone I worked with in Livingstone was so warm and welcoming. One of my favourite parts of the internship was going out into the release site and being able to recognise each lion in the Dambwa pride. I also liked how Emma, the researcher, would test you every time we were in the site; this fueled my desire to learn more about each lion.
This internship has definitely opened my eyes to the human conflict that faces, not only lions, but many other African mammals. I think ALERT is doing an amazing job with the book clubs and the conservation education program, I truly believe that education is the only way to solve these conflicts.’
Having previously interned with ALERT twice, returning to Livingstone as an Elephant Research assistant was like ‘coming home’ for Will Donald (pictured below)
‘Working with ALERT is always something that I look forward to. I love coming back to Livingstone to work with everyone, I view it as a second home and I am always made to feel welcome. Working on the Elephant Project allowed me to further my knowledge of the ecological importance of elephants, to better my understanding of how to implement scientific theory in the field, and gave me the confidence to act as a competent member of the research team. It also opened my eyes to the amount of conflict that occurs between the elephants and the human population, and therefore the essential need for this project to be carried out, in order to manage the conflict between these two species.
The level of scientific training from the exceptional researchers at the project was phenomenal. During my second time working on this project, I was trusted to lead research sessions in the bush on several occasions. I had not done this before, and it was fantastic! The ability to lead sessions has majorly built my confidence up, and gives me faith my own abilities for when I conduct my own scientific studies in the future.'
Emily Drewry joined ALERT as an Elephant Research assistant in Livingstone
‘I felt like I had a family here, and everyone here is so friendly and fun to be around. I felt included and respected at all times, whether we were identifying elephants or out at dinner.
I believe that I contributed a lot to the elephant project, because we created IDs for so many elephants and identified new herds. I had no prior experience, but I was able to figure things out very quickly with the help of the staff and the other interns and volunteers. I think ALERT is doing something really amazing, especially with the lion release program, and my eyes have really been opened as to how difficult and expensive these projects are.
I gained valuable field experience, a new perspective on conservation as a whole, and so many new friends. I would not change a thing about this experience. I had the best time and I really would love to come back.’
Anna Januszko (pictured below) joined ALERT in Livingstone as an Elephant Research assistant
'Working and living in Africa has given me the confidence and passion to complete my Masters in Endangered Species and Wildlife Conservation and has given me an insight into my future employment options. I have gained knowledge, made friends for life, and opened myself up to the world.
Each day was a highlight to me. I love learning about wildlife, I have learnt something new everyday and I was always looking forward to the next. I particularly enjoyed kids club: teaching, dancing, singing, or playing games with the kids. Seeing smiles on their faces and motivating them towards education was an incredible feeling. At the end of the day even the heat, mosquitos and tiredness did not bother me. It was all worth it.'
Brigit Rooney (pictured below) was also in Livingstone as an Elephant Research assistant
'There were so many highlights! I was incredibly lucky to see the many elephants I saw in my two weeks in Livingstone. On my very first day during my first session of elephant research, I saw a herd of 22 elephants! In that same week, I got to watch an elephant swim across the Zambezi river. I also really enjoyed participating in Conservation Education and Kids Club. Visiting local schools and working with the kids holds a special place in my heart, and participating in Conservation Education has reinforced my belief that community education is an essential part of conservation.
I very much felt part of the team and always felt as though my voice and ideas were seriously considered. Dabwiso, the researcher, was a great teacher. I can’t think of anything that would have made my training better.
There weren’t any experiences that I didn’t enjoy! Through freezing mornings and busy days, I enjoyed every minute of it! It was an incredible experience, not only in terms of gaining real-world experience with field research and wildlife data collection, but also in how warmly I was welcomed by the staff, volunteers and interns. In just two weeks, I feel I have made lifelong friends. It was also great working with local staff members, as they taught me about Zambian culture, history and even a little of the local language Nyanja. I will be returning to Livingstone next year to complete my Master's research on the wild elephant population and I couldn't be happier to be doing it in such a welcoming place.'
A regular volunteer at our Livingstone project, Lotta Hellström has now joined ALERT as an Elephant Research assistant too
‘I felt that I was part of the team. I could ask questions and Dabwiso, the researcher on this project, would try to answer them. To work with Dabwiso and Mr Matengu is an experience. They try to teach you so much. All of the staff are so helpful and I enjoy so much working with them.
I think we worked hard and seriously, but with a lot of humour and laughs. I want to do projects like this so many more times. It was one of the best things I have done in my long life.’
Helen Harrison (pictured below) joined ALERT in Livingstone as an Elephant Research assistant
'Being in the bush with the wildlife, and experiencing wild elephants at such close quarters, was beyond wonderful. I have fallen in love with Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park! Experiencing the community projects and meeting local youngsters was very special too.
I have come away with a much better awareness of just how difficult and challenging conservation is, and how it is not seen as a priority at all by many people here, and how people’s attitudes to the environment and animal welfare are so different from those in western societies. I feel I will be much better placed to talk to others about conservation, and that I will be able to support conservation projects in a more intelligent and understanding way after my experiences with ALERT. I have also come to appreciate the vital importance of community projects as an integral and essential part of conservation - and that conservation will never be a success without the full support and involvement of the local people. ALERT’s efforts to enable children to achieve their full potential through education, as well as gain an understanding of how vital conservation is, are truly admirable.
Having travelled so far, on my own, for the first time, I have become a more confident person. I don’t think it will be the last time I make such a trip, now I have convinced myself I can do it! I am taking away unforgettable experiences, which will always remain with me, and a renewed conviction of the importance of conservation, despite all the obstacles it faces.'
David Brackstone (pictured below) interned at our Livingstone project, where he was responsible for helping to develop ALERT’s education program in local schools
‘I was very much made to feel an important part of the team. I was given freedom to make my own decisions and the opportunity to try out, review and refine my ideas. The work of ALERT, particularly the Education programmes, has absolutely influenced my everyday life. As a teacher it has made me rethink my priorities in the classroom at home. In the Western Cultures attention has shifted to performance and data, and the work here has helped me to remember that the progress of the children, academic and social, should never be compromised!
Working with such a dedicated team only makes me more motivated to continue to support the programme. What the team are attempting to achieve here is fantastic - it is more than just a rehabilitation programme for lions but a wide reaching, and long-lasting programme of change for an entire community, and shows a deep understanding of what is needed to make conservation work, and to improve the lives of those it affects at the same time.’
Yana Van Camp (pictured below) spent 12 weeks as a Teaching in Africa intern at our project in Victoria Falls, where she utilised her occupational therapy studies to start a special needs class in a local primary school
‘As an intern I definitely felt part of the team. I appreciated that people asked for my opinions and accepted my feedback. At the school, I loved it how everyone welcomed me with open arms.
Learning how to act around special needs students during my internship, helped me to become pretty confident after a while. I think I’ve made a big difference in my class. Each of the 18 kids made an evolution; some of them gained confidence, some learned how to interact with other students without fighting, their English is better and their maths is better. I think the biggest skill that helped me to make an impact on these kids was my patience and unconditional love while I was teaching. I think that helped a lot. The kids are awesome! It was hard sometimes, but they kept on going full speed!
There was a lot of variation in the activities I could do; a night game drive, game count, being with the lions - even as an intern, I was still able to get involved in this stuff. So it was awesome to have busy days at school, but once in a while go on a safari drive as well! Living and working here was awesome. Because I was here for a long time, it made me realize even more how good ALERT is. I gained a lot of confidence, more creativity, and more knowledge about Africa and its wonders…and a bag full of memories and adventures I can tell my family and friends! The people who work here are awesome! They have so much knowledge, they are fun, they like what they do. I’ll miss them.'
Nathan Payne (pictured below) joined ALERT as a Teaching in Africa intern, where he used his skills as a student in music education to teach music therapy to students from a special needs class
‘I taught music at a local primary school, honing in on improvements in rhythm with Kodály method, a method for repeating rhythms using spoken syllables. In turn, students used the method to repeat clapped rhythm, as well as interpret the rhythm for the conversion into written notation. In addition to the rhythm method, the class also practiced with singing, incorporating other characteristics of music, such as dynamics and tempo.
I felt enthused, especially with how much freedom I was working with, which allowed for creativity. Of course, guidance was always available when, or if, I needed it. The children, with their enthusiasm, greatly motivated me, which strengthened my cause and relevance to them.
Outside of the classroom, I enjoyed exploring the city, which included attending a Mass in Shona, as well as visiting the marketplace. I also met many people of several nationalities, many of which I plan to keep in contact with.’
Anup Mistry (pictured below) was a Wildlife Videography and Photography intern in Victoria Falls, before joining the team for a time as Volunteer Coordinator for Research and Photography projects
'My experience in Victoria Falls as a Wildlife Photography and Videography Intern with ALERT was one I will never forget. Interns are required to stay a minimum of eight weeks and I can honestly say every day was different; I was constantly kept on my toes. My days were long and usually spent on the game viewer in the beautiful Zambezi National Park with the research team. I participated in mammalian game counts, bird counts and large predator occupancy surveys. As well as learning the value of these activities, it gave me ample opportunity to spend time in the bush and photograph the wonderful diversity of animals that filled the park. A developing part of the research project was the collaring of a Spotted Hyena female (Crocuta crocuta). She and the rest of clan were surveyed daily in the Chamabondo region of the park which is more open. Early morning tracking of the collared Hyena using a telemetry set with a 2km radius was always exciting. If the Hyena went over the ridge we would leave the safety of the vehicle and set off on foot to track her, all your senses are kicked into gear big time! Combining photography with research has always been a dream of mine. When I arrived as an intern I was given the flexibility and freedom to achieve these goals and be a part of something bigger. I was very fortunate to witness the incredible wildlife that Africa offers.
This project is incredibly unique and will leave you wanting more not to mention an enviable portfolio to suit. I thoroughly recommend anyone with a passion for wildlife and photography to take part in this internship, it will change your life as it did mine!'
Holly Steadman interned in Wildlife Videography and Photography at our project in Victoria Falls
'I feel I was able to make a difference to the numerous projects I could get involved with. By filming and editing videos of the conservation and volunteer work done by ALERT and Lion Encounter, I knew that the work I was doing was significant in promoting and informing the world of the vital importance of the charitable and front-line conservation efforts done on a daily basis in the Victoria Falls project.
From the moment I arrived in Victoria Falls, I felt very welcome and completely at ease. The staff do an incredible job of making each visitor feel at home. I always felt like I could voice my opinion, and have them listened to. In Victoria Falls, everyone is valued and it’s one of my favourite things about the project. With videography too, Anup was there to guide me and help me in any way necessary, but he also pushed me to use my own creative initiative, assisting me if I needed it. I really appreciated this and definitely made me feel like my ideas were valued.
My specific skills were utilized in many ways. For example, aiding the research team with my videography skills allowed me to help identify numerous different wildlife in the Zambezi National Park, from hyenas to elephants. I created weekly video updates, so followers on social media and future volunteers can experience a week in the life of a volunteer from the comforts of their own home.
I didn’t realise just how bad the decrease in the population of lions had got before I went to Africa. I learnt so much when I was there and can see, not only the important conservation efforts done by ALERT for the lion, but everything else that comes with that. ALERT works tirelessly to help Africa; the wildlife and people within it, and are doing a great job.'
Zsofia Polak interned in Wildlife Videography and Photography in Victoria Falls
'I definitely learnt more about myself and photography. I think I was part of the team and my ideas were heard. Also, I felt like I was home away from home. Everybody helped me if I had problems. I realized that I can adjust to new situations, such as living in another country, working with a team, or working alone.
The time that I spent in Africa made me more curious about different cultures. It was interesting to encounter various people’s lifestyles and habits. I liked the environment, because people interacted with each other and they did not rely on electronic devices.'
Sarah Canon (pictured below) was a Wildlife Videography and Photography intern in Victoria Falls
‘I was 100% confident in what I was doing, and it was it was great to have Anup there if I ever needed help with anything. I felt completely comfortable asking him any question and he was always respectful and gentle in teaching. The team felt like family to me. From the beginning, they were welcoming, wild, and wise. The photography project is great because it really is about creativity, so they gave complete creative freedom while offering advice when needed, and when we reviewed projects, they would always listen to my ideas. I always felt encouraged.
I enjoyed how every day was a new adventure. The photography project was especially great because it encompasses all aspects of all projects: we were out on the vehicle all the time, getting close to animals, interacting with the community, walking with lions, assisting with behavior enrichment, helping the research team, etc. It was awesome!
What did I achieve during my internship? Where do I begin?! I made so many friends from all over the world, experienced a new culture and saw other ways of living (especially at the rural homesteads). I am now more confident in shooting in manual mode, I learned how to use Adobe Premier (which will come in handy for my future career!), and I learned about so many different issues that the research team is working to improve.'
Wildlife Videography and Photography intern Paul Blatch was also based at our Victoria Falls project
‘The atmosphere is so relaxed here at times. I love it, being here has taught me that things will get done, so there is no need to be so stressed about small things. I have gained some good friends, great memories and I am going to urge people to come and try it out for themselves. If say, if there is something you are unsure about doing, go for it. Bungee jumping, eating a mopane worm, whatever. Just go for it and try everything new.’
Hayley Beavon interned with ALERT in Wildlife Videography and Photography in Victoria Falls
‘The staff are incredibly knowledgeable and have taught me so much, from what trees I can use to brush my teeth to what scat and spoor belongs to each animal. Being out in the national park every day taking photos of all the animals has been incredible.
I have gained a lot of confidence in my photography and videography while being here. I have also gained a lot of life- long friends and everything they have taught me along the way. I felt very much part of the team, and the other intern and myself worked very well together.
I now have a greater understanding of what ALERT and Lion Encounter do for conservation. Africa needs lions and ALERT is doing something about it, which I am 100% for.’
Pat Campbell joined ALERT in Victoria Falls as a Wildlife Videography and Photography intern
‘Interning was an amazing experience throughout. I felt that I was 100% part of the team. The team at Lion Encounter and ALERT are extremely welcoming and interactive with everything they do. There was no awkward barriers to overcome when pitching out new ideas or integrating them. I felt that the internship was extremely balanced between learning new skills to benefit myself and using some of my more polished skills to benefit the organisation. The staff make you feel like they are there for you and to make sure you receive the most out of your experience. I have gained professional experience in skills applicable to my field while the entire time I was forming friendships that I pray will last a lifetime. My advice to anyone considering interning in Zimbabwe would be - do it.’
Richele Young interned in Fundraising and Marketing at our Lion Encounter project in Victoria Falls
‘This internship was great. Working in the office was fun, but also very well organised; I had a plan for what I was doing every day. It was a confidence boost because I was able to complete so many different tasks. Sometimes they took me a day or two to figure out, but I stayed motivated and was really proud of myself when I did. Everyone was so appreciative of my work; it made me want to work harder. I am very proud of the work I completed for Lion Encounter and feel I learned a lot about the organisation and marketing in general. I was very fortunate to work with Primrose, the Marketing Manager at the Victoria Falls project; she is amazing. This was such a great experience for my career and life in general.’
Vicky Lalumiere (pictured below) interned in Livingstone for six months
‘At 39 years old I decided to challenge myself and apply for an internship with ALERT. It was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I spent 6 months working alongside the ALERT and Lion Encounter team on fundraising, animal research, marketing initiatives, and volunteer management. It was extremely rewarding from both a professional and personal level. I have learned so much from the experience: building relationships with local people, the challenge of creating new ideas for a non-profit organization, working closely with the volunteers and of course the beautiful animals I was able to gain so much knowledge about. By working in the fundraising and marketing areas, I was also able to get a bigger picture of the overall organization and everything it takes to have this program running. And of course, I got to live in the African bush - much different to city life!’
Sally Fry (pictured below) joined ALERT as a Conservation Education intern at the ALERT Education Centre (AEC) in Gweru, Zimbabwe, having previously visited us as a volunteer on several occasions
‘As a teacher from Australia, learning how to prepare, develop and implement lessons without the use of the usual modern technological devices and aids was a challenge, however it forced me to be more creative and flexible and to think more carefully and critically about my teaching and how best to engage my students.
This has not only been a wonderfully rewarding experience, but has made me more determined to put the lessons taught into practise in my own life. It also highlighted the value of education as a means to informing and inspiring others to be the catalyst for change in their own communities.
No matter what area you choose to intern in (and there are many), you will find that your efforts will be rewarded many times over. You will develop new skills, a new confidence and make friendships with people, young and old, from all over the world. Your horizons will be broadened and you will come away with a sense that you can make a difference. I have come away with the knowledge that my role as an intern has, in some small way, helped light a spark in these children that will inspire them to continue to develop the skills and understanding necessary for them to build a brighter and more optimistic future for themselves, their community and the world. Now what could be better than that?’
Menou Spauwen was our first Conservation Education intern on the Program, working at the then newly-opened ALERT Education Centre (AEC)
‘I was on a Conservation Education internship at the AEC, which had just opened. This made it very exciting and challenging. I learnt to teach a class of 15 boys. The most important skill I learnt was how to keep them interested and to explain the conservation issues. Staben, the AEC teacher, and I made a first step in teaching the children from the Mkoba Township about conservation. We also started homework classes for the boys from the local orphanage to improve their English. I think these two new developments are very important and will benefit the children on the long term.
I especially enjoyed my time with the orphanage boys. When I said goodbye to them, they gave me cards and letters, saying that they really loved the lessons and that they were going to miss me. To make a difference in a child’s life is the most beautiful and rewarding thing in the world. I am very thankful that I was able to experience this.
It was really great to have slice of the African life. The African people are the friendliest people I have ever met; they always have a smile on their face. I never really wanted to be rich, and now I know for sure that money doesn't make you happy. It is good to see that with a more relaxed attitude, you can be happier. I really love this culture and I hope to come back to Africa soon.’