Volun­teering USA Florida Animal Welfare – Kim 2

After Florida Wildlife scholar Kim has shared her experiences during the planning phase of her trip in the first part of her travel journal, she is now revealing more information about her time as a volunteer.

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Kim
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Wildlife project in Florida – Scholarship 2018

During the project: Week 1+2

After Florida Wildlife scholar Kim has shared her experiences during the planning phase of her trip in the first part of her travel journal, she is now revealing more information about her time as a volunteer in the project on site.

Arrival on July 14

My flight from Germany to the USA was quite relaxed. On July 14, I arrived in Florida and was picked by Kurt – after waiting for my luggage for two hours! When I stepped out of the airport it once again became clear to me: I am in Florida! For a few seconds I could only pay attention to the high humidity. Kurt, Lisa’s husband and co-founder of the animal rescue center, gave me a warm welcome – he looked exactly how I imagined him to look. It took us about 1,5 hours to get to Silver Springs from the airport, enough time to get to know each other a little more. Kurt explained to me that Miranda would be my main contact person on site. I received an information brochure and this way could read about my tasks as a volunteer.

July 15, day 1

The next day, Sunday, was off so I could settle in and get used to the new time zone and the surroundings. I took a short walk to explore the area a little bit. The first thing I noticed: palm trees! On the ground I could spot lots of lizards and butterflies are at least twice the size of the butterflies in Germany. And they simply look beautiful! In the evening, I read the information brochure one more time to start the following day well-prepared. After that I went to bed – excited, but happy.

July 16, day 2, first day of work

Annie, my roomie, is the only volunteer on site who has an own car. That’s why we meet in the morning to drive to work together. One of the guys is also from Europe and is involved in the project fort wo months already, just like Annie. But as Jordan is from London, I am the only one whose mother tongue is not English. Sean is one year older than me and comes from Orlando, Florida. He has been in the project for four weeks. It takes us not more than five minutes to get to the nature reserve where the animal center is located. After arriving at the center we went into a wagon – a place where we would constantly stay at, as I was told in the beginning. As it was my first day, Miranda took me with her and showed me how to do all the tasks.

There are six cats on the center grounds, so we need at least six water and food bowls. One of the cats is a little bit too thin and therefore gets more food than the others in order to gain some more weight. There also is an older cat with shoulder problems. That’s why we need to add a certain kind of powder to her food. We put the food bowl into the drinking bowl so the food is surrounded by water. This is necessary in ordert o prevent ants and other insects from reaching the animals’ food. Each cat has its own favourite place on the grounds so feeding them means a running back and forth.

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Afterwards we took care of Chief, the horse. Before you can properly clean him you should first hand him his food. After that you need to brush his fringe and spray his tail with fly repellent. Chief’s paddock is quite large and he even has his own little forest.

As soon as we were done taking care of Chief, we went over to the tortoises and cleaned their area. We replaced their drinking water and the water in their pool. Just like Chief, the tortoises have lots of space – perhaps about 800 square meters.

Shortly afterwards we moved on to the bats and started cleaning everything. I’ve learned that bats don’t really eat the fruit they get but rather soak out the water – the rest they simply spit out. All in all, the male and female bats receive about 15 kg of fresh and cut fruit. As you might imagine, this causes quite a lot of chaos each day. As the ground is covered with sand and we do not want to waste anything, we need to – after sweeping all food rests together – sieve the bucket full of sand and food leftovers one more time. This whole procedure takes at about 45 minutes and is not that easy, especially because of the tropical climate.

On our way back to the wagon we take the bats‘ food bowls and drinking bottles with us to refill it. After all bowls and buckets have been cleaned, Annie and I could start cutting the fruit – apples, bananas, carrots, melons and grapes. It looks like a giant fruit salad for 30 people. We also add ground monkey biscuits. Afterwards everything is mixed pretty well and spread into different bowls. As bats are nocturnal animals we give them their food right before we go back to the volunteer house.

These were Miranda’s tasks that day, and after Sean, Jordan and Annie had finished their tasks as well we had lunch together. After a one-hour break we dedicated ourselves to additional tasks like removing weed or cleaning the center grounds.

At 5:30 pm we made our way back to the volunteer house. One thing I quickly noticed: after so much work, the only place you want to go to is your bed. But before going to sleep a nice, warm shower and dinner is waiting for you.

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July 17-19; 2nd, 3rd and 4th day of work

On Tuesday I was allowed to take care of Chief all by myself – and yesterday and today I was allowed to do all the tasks I have previously described on my own. It felt great! Even though it was hard work, I was very happy afterwards. Yesterday Miranda offered me to familiarise me with the monkeys and to explain to me how to take care of them properly. In order to make sure I knew how to do the other tasks I decided to repeat the basics instead. Within the following days I will then meet the monkeys and learn how to handle and feed them. I am really looking forward to that!

My second week in the project

Even though the daily tasks have become routine it still feels like yesterday that I left the plane in Florida. Hard to believe that it’s been two weeks already. Jordan, the volunteer from England, couldn’t believe either that his time in the project has come to an end now. Sunday was his last day. We are definitely going to miss him!

My second day was mainly about the monkeys which I finally got to meet: lemurs, spider monkeys and Capuchin monkeys. Miranda who supports the project full-time showed me how to clean the cages and how to prepare and hand them their food.

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Taking care of the monkeys looks like this: Their food is prepared usually one day before and put into two buckets. The food needs to be weighed as the two young monkeys, Louie and Jojo, don’t get as much as the older animals. By weighing the food we make sure that each animal gets the amount of food it needs: enough, but not too much. Before going to the Capuchins, we need to load a cart with the following equipment: a bucket for dung and food leftovers, a rake, a shovel, two buckets – one with a C for Capuchins on it and one with an L for lemurs (as well as spider monkeys). Once everything is in the cart you can make your way to the monkeys.

The Capuchin monkeys are the first ones. First, you need to clean their area – this is always kind of messy because they love playing with sand and digging holes. The eneven spots need to be refilled and flattened. Afterwards we feed the monkeys. Four of the nine Capuchin monkeys used to „live“ in laboratories which is revealed by the tattoos they have in their faces.

As soon as we are done feeding them we move on to the lemurs. All five of them live together. One of them, Rusty, is often ostracized from eating, so we need to make sure that he gets enough food. Last but not least: the spider monkeys. I think they are the most friendly and peaceful monkeys on site – the Capuchins can sometimes be kind of aggressive. After feeding is done, we usually observe the monkeys for a little while to identify any behavioural changes. Each Friday after feeding time the monkey area needs to be properly cleaned. In order to be able to do so, the monkeys need to be relocated into another cage.

For one’s own safety you should keep an arm length distance to the cage – as monkeys love pulling your hair, clothes or other body parts. In case you have a cold you are not allowed to prepare the food or clean the area so the (elder) monkeys don’t get infected.

My experience

Once or twice the monkeys were able to grab my pants or my scraper – this made me realize that they are definitely faster than one might think. Moreover, do not smile at them! They perceive this as provocative/aggressive behaviour. I didn’t know that before and in the beginning it was hard to get used to it.

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To my mind, the spider monkeys are very loveable and open-minded animals. Particulary Gramps is a real Prince Charming and often blows kisses, especially to female workers.

This week I took care of the bats, tortoises, cats and Chief. The monkeys were my biggest challenge, though, as taking care of them can be quite hard. I love watching the bats and monkeys eat – so it’s a nice coincidence that we “have to” observe them after feeding. It is always funny and interesting.

Unfortunately, there were often heavy rainfalls during the last week – so after finishing work we were completely wet. But once you are totally wet, you don’t really care about the rain anymore – it even is fun!

Next week I’ll get to know the bears. I was already involved in preparing their food – a new task in my daily volunteer routine. Soon I will be allowed to learn more about the large carnivores. I am very excited about that!

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