FOR one of our veterinary nurses – Rebecca Watt – the next month or two promise to be a little bit out of the ordinary when she swaps Fluffy the kitten for Simba the lion cub on an amazing African adventure, writes Dominic Plumley.
Rebecca joined the practice nearly five years ago, committed to becoming a qualified veterinary nurse and fulfilling her life long ambition to help animals. Having completed her training and passed the exacting examinations in 2009, she has continued to develop her nursing skills concentrating her efforts primarily on domestic cats and dogs. However, things are going to change.
This weekend, Rebecca flies to South Africa to take part in a very rewarding conservation project. Flying from London to Port Elizabeth, via the capital Johannesburg, she will take up a month long nursing position at the Kwantu Game Park where she will be integrally involved in the lion and elephant projects.
With numbers of both species still under threat, the Kwantu project has been breeding both lion and elephant in significant numbers to enable successful re-introduction of individuals and groups of animals back into the wild.
Rebecca is in charge of the pets “weight watchers” clinics at our Morpeth surgery and consequently is used to dealing with the larger patient. She frequently is presented over weight pussies and pampered pooches and has been very successful at encouraging them to shed those excess pounds.
While in Africa, she will be specifically involved with the lion cubs, which will be significantly heavier than most dogs, let alone the cats. With regular monitoring of health parameters to ensure that they are growing well and in good health, Rebecca will have her hands full. The park is also well known for its work with elephants and Rebecca is keen to get hands on experience with these magnificent beasts.
Apart from having responsibility for the lion cubs Rebecca will also have to accompany any animals that have to be moved to other parks or back into the wild; again monitoring vital signs if any sedation has been used. On top of this she will also go on weekly game drives around Kwantu Park, learning what normal behaviour patterns the wild animals exhibit and using this information to help make re-introduction of captive bred animals more successful.
The final part of Rebecca’s expedition requires her to visit local schools, helping with long running education projects that teach people not to be afraid of Africa’s magnificent wildlife but to respect it and hopefully thrive together in harmony.
Rebecca has been planning this trip for the best part of a year and her waiting is finally over.
Though she will be out of normal practice life for just over five weeks, it is an experience not to be missed and undoubtedly she will return with many a tale to tell.
We all wish her the best of luck, not to mention a word of caution, not to end up with an elephant on her toe or worse still Simba’s dinner.