Friday, December 30, 2011

working it out

For the past few days I’ve been able to work with the volunteers. Their numbers are a bit lower than usual—because of the holidays—and yesterday they lost quite a few when a group flew home. Today they’re down to about 12--compared to sometimes having as many as 50--and the new ones coming this afternoon won’t be able to help much until they’re trained.

So I’ve joined in and had a good time. I helped clear the weeds from a cheetah enclosure where guests go (so it needs to be looking good). Then I helped clean the water hole in the aviary. And this morning I worked in the food prep area, cutting meat into various sizes for different creatures (1 inch cubes for mongooses; steak size for cheetahs; strips the size of your smallest finger for the bat-eared foxes), and finally I helped rake and clean up the aviary. I admit I'm a big sore in my shoulders and arms.

None of these activities are picture worthy, so I’m including a picture of Asem, our movie star vulture. He had a small part (picking at a dead body by the side of the road) in Beyond Borders from 2003. He was rescued as part of a group of vultures that were being smuggled into Namibia. Once he and his siblings were healed (and some died as a result of the smuggling), they were all released, but Asem kept coming back to Harnas. He just didn’t want to go. Finally, Marieta decided he could stay in the aviary—where he’s King.

The one thing I’ve been reminded about the last couple of days is how hard these young volunteers work. They toil out in temperatures that are near 100 degrees, doing manual labor they’ve probably never done before, and they pay to do it. It’s mostly European kids between 18-30, taking time off from work or in between school and work. I wish more American kids would take a gap year and do things like this. It changes your perspective and makes you appreciate how great you have it. And it helps the world become a better place for both people and animals.

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