Program Feature: Pre-Vet Students in Shingwedzi, South Africa!

by isvolunteers on Tuesday, 8 July 2014

The youngest of the hand raised cubs with which the students worked (c) Dr M Radlinsky

The youngest of the hand raised cubs with which the students worked (c) Dr M Radlinsky

In May 2014 Dr Radlinsky from the University of Georgia returned to the The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre (De Wildt Shingwedzi Cheetah Reserve and Wildlife Ranch) in South Africa to co-lead a SECOND ISV Pre-Vet Program, this time bringing a whole new group of eager-to-learn Pre-Vet students and one ISV Pre-Vet Alumni, Michael Stroup along for the ride! Here’s her personal account of the experience!

For part two of the ISV Pre-Vet Program we wanted to reinforce the mission of the reserve: to help ensure the long-term survival of cheetah and African wild dogs worldwide.

Upon arrival, we knew much work needed to be done and the group readily awaited to fulfill any tasks that needed completing. We began preparing meals for the cheetahs and interacting with new litters of cubs! In the wild, a queen cheetah only successfully rears two young, so the students helped in the feeding and socialization of hand-raised cubs, the youngest being only 5 weeks old!

Pre-veterinary students assisting with annual cheetah evaluations (c) Dr Radlinsky

Pre-veterinary students assisting with annual cheetah evaluations (c) Dr Radlinsky

A highlight of our stay was experiencing up close and personal treatment of a male cheetah named Congo. This took place at The Old Chapel Veterinary Clinic owned by Dr. Peter Caldwell, the chief veterinarian for DeWildt and Shingwedzi. Congo was anesthetized using medication given via a pole syringe! They evaluated radiographs of the tibia (shin bone) for healing and infection, and seeing that the bone was well healed and not infected, they watched as Dr. Caldwell shortened a screw that was causing Congo some mild irritation. Congo recovered quite well, as the students saw the next time they attended feeding rounds.

Dr. Caldwell also came to Shingwedzi for annual examinations on three cheetahs and to neuter two wild dogs. Students worked as a group from start to finish with anesthetizing, transporting, observing blood collection, ophthalmic examination, dental examination, endoscopic examination of the stomach and then returned the cheetahs to their enclosures.

Check out these two awesome videos on the health check and castration.


Pre-vet students ready to observe surgery on an African wild dog (c) Dr Radlinsky


Pre-veterinary students ready to work with the cubs (c) Dr Radlinsky

Students were able to continue developing their skills when Dr. Caldwell neutered the two wild dogs to ensure genetic diversity of the species, which aids reproduction in captivity. The day ended with vaccinations and microchip implantations of the four cubs we had helped to feed throughout our two weeks in Shingwedzi.

The entire group had a nice weekend of optional activities and each student made their own fabric banner that symbolized their experience and love of Shingwedzi and South Africa and the new friends they’d made. The paintings were all so incredibly well done and personalized and were a great keepsake for their time in South Africa.

More work on the roads and Gertie’s dam were done concurrently with development and painting of a mural to mark the 2-week pre-veterinary and conservation volunteer program at Shingwedzi.

Our stay regrettably came to an end so quickly and many tears were shed with multiple goodbyes for new found friends, human and animal. We have great things planned for next year and hope that you will join us for another incredible two weeks at the DeWildt Shingwedzi Cheetah Ranch and Wildlife Reserve!

If you have any questions about this particular trip, you may email Dr. MaryAnn Radlinsky at Otherwise please email the ISV office ( for information about our other pre-vet and veterinary programs in South Africa and other countries.

Read about the incredible story, conservation research and legacy of Ann van Dyk’s Cheetah Centre here.

A student's hand-painted fabric banner.

A student’s hand-painted fabric banner.

You can learn more about the work Dr. Radlinsky and last year’s Pre-Vet team (2013) completed at Shingwedzi here.

To learn more ISV’s volunteer and adventure travel programs please visit our website: and apply today!


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