Dr. Radlinsky’s Pre-Vet Experience in South Africa

by isvolunteers on Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Getting up close and personal on the ISV pre-vet experience in South Africa (c) MaryAnn Radlinski

Considering an ISV pre-vet/veterinary internship/placement this summer?

Read this guest post by Associate Professor Dr. MaryAnn Radlinsky from the Department of Small Animal Medicine & Surgery College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Georgia. Dr. Radlinsky participated as an ISV university leader for a group of ISV university student volunteers in 2013 and is keen to return with another ISV pre-vet “special interest” group to South Africa in May 2014.

There are still limited places available for this summer’s pre-veterinary projects.

Apply now at www.isvolunteers.org!

From Dr. Radlinsky:

Every day started out with enthusiasm and wonder for what the day would hold.  Even the walk to breakfast could be breath taking, with zebra, giraffe, bleskbok, wildebeest, hartebeest, kudu, wart hog, ostrich… and more…. but before I get into that, I should really start from the beginning….

We started our trip together flying to Johannesburg, South Africa.   The flight was long, but we all were so excited.  As we entered the atrium of the airport, we were met with our enthusiastic ISV project leaders!!!  There was an entire room full of ISV folk raring to go on their respective tours!  The hustle and bustle masked the chaos that was all around us in the airport.  We made it to a luxury tour bus that would take us on our trip to the reserve.  The ride went very smoothly… until we were just a couple of kilometers from the front gate!  Needless to say, our memory making began with a BANG as the bus broke down.  No worries, we just started our opening “get to know you” games a little sooner and in the middle of the wilderness.  How perfect is that?! AND what fun when the reserve’s vehicles came to our rescue, carting us and our bags to Shingwedzi.

A picture of everyone with Ann van Dyk (center, back row) (c) MaryAnn Radlinski

From that very moment onward we knew this would be the trip of a life time, and it was.  The personnel are phenomenal; everyone is so kind and welcoming.  You will not ever find a better host facility.  If you love animals and want to learn about African wildlife and culture, take this trip to Shingwedzi with the ISV pre-vet group.  Roy and Anna grew to love this place throughout their visits, so moved in and have done wonders to keep the reserve afloat.  There are cheetahs there for the preservation of the species, and Ann van Dyk developed and mastered the art of breeding them in captivity.  Shingwedzi is the satellite for the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre, Ann’s home base and primary reserve.  Shingwedzi is more remotely located and houses African Wild dogs, serval, African wild cats, vultures, and free roaming species abound.

Our days were spent doing hard work (building cheetah mounds, filling the vulture restaurant, emptying the vulture restaurant, cleaning and painting enclosures… but time was also spent on cheetah feeding and treatment rounds, refinishing reed blinds, moving cheetahs, and socializing with young cheetahs in training for community outreach programs.

Dr MaryAnn Radlinsky giving a lion an implant (c) MaryAnn Radlinski

The work was at times intensive, but it was always uplifting – we could always see the fruit of our labors!!!  It also brought us all closer together.  The project leaders were great at mixing us up and making sure we all worked with everyone on the trip.  The ISV project leaders also did a wonderful job at introducing different topics that concerned conservation, culture, and interacting with people in different nations and cultures.  The presentations were interactive and filled with enthusiasm!  We even went out trekking the reserve!

Working hard at Shingwedzi involved park maintenance tasks plus vet skills practice! (c) MaryAnn Radlinski

This coming year’s pre-veterinary trip should have presentations on big cat conservation and wild dog behavior and ecology as well as learning about Africa’s history and culture and specific areas of species conservation.  Learning about Shingwedzi and the area was so important to all of us, it only made us love the area even more.  And learning about the history of Shingwedzi and getting to meet Ann van Dyk and spending time with her was amazing.  She is so incredibly dedicated and seeing all that she has done was truly amazing.

Lastly, we got to become close with the trip members, our ISV team leaders, the staff at Shingwedzi, and the folks that run the reserve.  This host organization goes FAR above and BEYOND at making volunteers not only feel welcome, but truly part of the FAMILY that is Shingwedzi.  I’m sure if you asked anyone about their trip to Shingwedzi, one of the first things they’d say is that they’d love to go back.  Some members of our group are going back, and we all so look forward to it.  In closing, as a testament to their love for the time spent in Shingwedzi and their love for the wildlife that they worked with, the ISV group adopted one of the cheetahs there, at the highest possible level of adoption.  That is a true example of how incredible the place and people of Shingwedzi are.  If you have the chance, volunteer with ISV!!  You will never forget it, never.

We had a blast, let’s do it again! (c) MaryAnn Radlinski

MaryAnn Radlinsky DVM, MS, DACVS

Associate Professor

Department of Small Animal Medicine & Surgery

College of Veterinary Medicine

University of Georgia


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


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