Vervet Monkey Project – Featured Project

This has proven to be one of Aviva Volunteer’s most popular projects.  The Vervet Monkey Foundation (VMF) is a 23-hectare not-for-profit centre for the rehabilitation and sanctuary for vervet monkeys. They are a member of the Pan-African Sanctuary Alliance as well as The Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries and this foundation relies heavily on volunteer workers to assist in the day to day running and care duties of the foundation. Unlike other monkey sanctuaries, the Vervet Monkey Sanctuary do not allow tourists onto the property and therefore do not have streams of visitors parading around looking at the monkeys.

From September, the beginning of the baby season, injured adults and orphaned babies are brought to the Sanctuary by either the public or VMF are called out to pick up and assist the adult or baby and like any volunteer will tell you, this is where all the hard work begins.

by josie du toitThe babies are traumatised after losing their mothers and they want comfort, which is normally found in the form of a woolly blanket against the chest of a carer.  Then they need round the clock feeding, initially by a carer and then they are taught how to take milk from a bottle. These little critters are such a joy to behold, playful, showing off their tree climbing skills, jumping and tumbling around each other.  You rarely find just one orphan – over the last month they have had over 12 orphaned monkeys and sadly, they tend to keep on coming.  Some humans in the area have a low tolerance to these monkeys and cause either severe bodily injury or fatalities.  Seriously, peeps, who could not love such a cute and gorgeous little creature?

Whilst carers and nurturing these little babies, other volunteers are out ensuring the different troops are fed, fresh water provided, fences are repaired and any other daily chore is accomplished.  You may even get a chance to go on a call-out to collect and injured monkey or an orphan.  When it is baby season, no two days are the same.

Human contact is limited as much as possible so it won’t be long before the process of introducing the orphans to possible foster mothers, begins.

v.monkey.scottieWhen the babies first arrive they are all housed in the Disneyland enclosure and from there on, they are introduced to the various troops in various enclosures – Gizmo, Skrow, Royal, Robert, Engeltjie (Angel). If you would like to watch videos of these babies being released to meet up with potential foster mothers, I highly recommend going to the Facebook page of The Vervet Forest.

Finn.2015It is fascinating how quickly these babies bond with each other and latch onto a foster mother when the time is right. What an incredible feeling of accomplishment to have volunteered on such a project, knowing you have made a difference.

 

It is not all work though.  As a volunteer, you have plenty of time to sightsee and explore this beautiful region of South Africa.  But don’t visit for 2 weeks – that is far too short – volunteer for longer and explore the region, like Blyde River Canyon ….

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And Bourke’s Drift  Potholes and go swimming in rock pools and venture on forest hikes. Go zip lining or paragliding. River tube down the rivers when they are flowing fast after a good rain. Dave and Josie at the VMF are the loveliest people you could get to meet and they will help you with tips and ideas for sightseeing in the area.

After that is done and dusted, why not consider coming to Cape Town to spend a week at the AVIVA Volunteer house in Table View. Your volunteering experience is not over until you end with the Cape Town experience before heading home.

In 2016, the best is yet to come ….. the best adventure of your life, the best volunteering experience, the best opportunity to discover your potential!

 

 

 

 

 

It’s the time to be Merry

December. The Silly Season. The time where people go crazy at the stores buying more stuff to clutter their lives. More stuff they don’t actually need.  And those that need, go about this month oblivious to the amount of money spent at this time of the year on unnecessary material things.

TLC Christmas 2015 CollageOne organisation that ensures the communities they care for are blessed and for one day could experience the joy of receiving something just for them.  Here is a collage of a TLC Christmas Party – one of many they have for the community.

It is a wonderful feeling to give and exciting to receive but in my humble opinion, I think that the time has come to give meaningful gifts.  Adopt a Penguin for your parents or a friend, or adopt an Elephant or a Rhino and the donation will go a long way in helping to save our Endangered Species.  Pledge to raise funds for a Wildlife Conservation Project or an Orphanage. Send school supplies or clothing or books to Schools who badly need these items especially in South America, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Africa, South Africa. These are the gifts that could have a snowball effect on someone’s life or to the safety of Wildlife.

Pledge that a group of you will volunteer in 2016 and ask family and friends for money towards your trip. Volunteering will make such an enormous impact on your life and the communities and wildlife projects you are coming out to support.

So why not make a commitment in 2016 to volunteer with AVIVA Volunteers?  Visit our website http://www.aviva-sa.com and complete a non-obligatory booking form for an opportunity of a lifetime.

Eyes on the Rhino – Featured Project

Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre recently took possession of another young Rhino calf who was found roaming around on his own – no mother in sight.  Unfortunately this little calf was attacked by what the Vet suspects to be Hyena and had his tail chewed off.  So when he arrived he was not in a good condition and was also in considerable pain.

HESC are well know for two Rhino’s, Dingle Bell and Lion’s Den, who both survived poaching of their horns and are now living out their lives in complete safety.  It has been a long road for them – 2 years of operations and care and now, looking at them, you will not believe how their faces had been hacked by senseless and cruel people.

Then the famous Gertjie, IMG_20150130_203423 or Little G arrived after being found laying next to their dead mothers. It took lots of love and care to help these little calves but they have come a long way since a year ago.  His carer slept with him each night and would lay his head on a lap.  He cried for many a night until the love outlasted the sadness he felt from missing his mother.  A surrogate mother in the form of a Lammie the Lamb, gave him the constant companionship he needed and a baby Ostrich joined to form a real Motley Crew. IMG_20150420_215422

Little G loved his daily walks, his mud baths and to carry a stick in his mouth.  He was a mischievous little calf who found an interest any anything and made a toy from anything.  Gertjie will be kept at HESC as the Ambassador Rhino as he has had quite a bit of human contact.

Matimba arrived a year later and was kept separate to Little G and he too, had is carer sleeping with him each night, suckling and crying for his mum.  Those little whimpering sounds are heartbreaking and blows your mind that someone can viciously kill another animal without any care the world.

IMG_20150309_193958When the day came for Matimba to meet Little G, it was by complete accident that their paths crossed and Matimba was excited and galloped over to Little G, who immediately ran away as fast as he could.  It was the cutest video I have seen and one that made me laugh.  They have since bonded and are inseparable.  When Matimba is big and strong enough, he will be released in some secret location where hopefully he will be able to live the rest of his life with a great herd of Rhinos.

IMG_20150211_214003But HESC are more than this.  Lente Rhode started HESC with the intention of saving endangered animals especially the Cheetah and various cats pass through the gates having been injured and where they receive medical help before being released again.  A release is always great to see – seeing that animal sprint away to freedom, healthy and feisty.

IMG_20150503_141822Salome gave birth to cubs a few months back and HESC had a webcam in the camp and these photos were taken by an Instagram follower from the webcam photos.  Once the cubs are weaned from their mother, they go to a Nursery and once they are fully grown, they are released in the wild.  Therefore no volunteer will be able to get close to them – all form of human contact is avoided.

Check out this video and if you are keen to volunteer, then go to our website http://www.aviva-sa.com and complete a booking form.  AVIVA Volunteers is proud to be associated with such a great Wildlife Conservation Project.

 

AVIVA Homeward bound with Cape To Addo Tours : Part 3

Sunday was an early start and would be the longest time on the road and with bags packed in the trailer, we headed to Oudtshoorn where those who wanted to experience the Cango Wildlife Ranch did so, whilst others headed to the Cango Caves. The Cango Wildlife Ranch is an exceptionally well run, organised and aesthetically pleasing Safari Park. IMG_20150622_204007The animals are all in excellent condition, living in exhibits or enclosures which are natural to their normal habitats. IMG_20150828_163249

They have their own operating theatre and Animal Clinic where they get the most professional and best treatment that any animal could wish for. Everything in the entire park has been carefully considered to keep the animals safe, happy and stress-free. If time was not an issue, I could easily have spent half a day here.

 We had one more stop before reaching Cape Town and that was in Barrydale, a quaint town in the Klein Karoo, reportedly making the best milkshakes in the Southern Hemisphere, the entire world, in Africa! At first, what caught your eye immediately was the vast collection of petrol pumps, old bicycles, household items and old Barber chairs, a real blast from the past and it was no surprise the restaurant would be called Diesel & Crème.  IMG_20150828_164513

This place is on the tourist route if you are travelling Route 62 and is ultra-popular with old and young alike.

What meant to be a quick milkshake stop, turned out to be another culinary delight. All the burgers had unusual names and in some cases non-appetising names but the real deal caused little explosions on your tongue as you began eating the food.

We had one last stop to look out over False Bay with Gordon’s Bay, Strand and Somerset West beneath our feet. The only disappointment was the incredibly cold, gale-force wind that was blowing and the sun was pretty weak in the distance. I doubt anyone cared too much as we were all really quite tired and wanted to get home, freshen up and tumble into bed.

Well done Cape to Addo – loved the tour, Nico and Gareth were fantastic tour guides and it was every bit worthy of the price. Now can you invite me to go on the 6-day tour please!

AVIVA On Tour with Cape to Addo : Part 2

As there were 23 of us on tour, we drove up in two Quantum van’s and fortunately for us as we were the 2nd bus to depart, we were able to sleep late on Saturday morning.  A leisurely stretch out of bed, morning coffee, a refreshing shower meant that we could cherish one hour of a chillax snail pace speed.

Our first stop of the morning was the farmers market in Slow Town, aptly named because of the laid-back atmosphere of this beautiful town, and one of a handful of Slow Town’s around the world.  The majority of skipped breakfast as we were warned there would be tantalising food to eat and that our taste buds would colour us happy with sampling all the goodies.  IMG_0114Once the gap was filled, curios were bought, we headed to The Elephant Sanctuary in The Crags, Plettenberg Bay. Some volunteers opted for Monkeyland but Megan & I headed to see the Elephants as this was one project we were negotiating adding to our broad spectrum of projects.  Elephants are my great love (besides Rhino’s, Giraffe, Serval, Cheetah, Leopard which all feature high on my list of favourite wildlife animals) but to get up close with an Elephant was on my bucket list.

The guides are extremely tender with the Ellies and can read any body language sign.  I love the feel of the elephant, the soft patches, the rough patches and the hard patches. They are only youngsters but it is the aim of The Elephant Sanctuary to one day release them to make it out on their own.  Luckily for them, they will have each other.

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Megan and I were taken for a walk around the facility and explained what the volunteer would experience on this project. The facility and the accommodation is in the most peaceful and tranquil valley where forest of trees surround you for miles around.  This was a project we were excited to be introducing.  We chatted about ethical volunteering and none of their elephants have ever be trained, chained, beaten or harmed in any way.

Next stop – lunch and it was right next door to the Sanctuary.  They made the most-delicious-absolutely-to-die-for burgers and fries (the thin American-styled fries) and what better way to wash that down in the hot winter sun, but with an ICE cold Savannah.  By now I was thinking that Cape To Addo needed to introduce a Gourmet Food & Drink Tour as so far we have been surprised with the most awesome restaurants with the most magnificent meals on the menu.

Lunch was a lively chatter with quotes like “are you going to eat all of that … you do realise you might throw up your food whilst bungee jumping” or “I still don’t know if I am going to jump” and those who were outwardly brave were trying to make this adventure sound like a walk in the park.  As we crossed several bridges it was all laughs until we received the Bloukrans River Bridge and the words escaping the mouths of these young dare-devils made us laugh until our sides ached.  You would not catch me jumping from that bridge so a volunteer and I sat in the pub and watched it on the TV, whilst continuing to sip on ice cold apple cider.  It is good to have my fruit during the day and I was determined to keep my healthy attitude going during this tour.

IMG_20150726_145839After the jump and the volunteers had collected their certificates and picked up the video we headed back to Sedgefield. I have never seen a bunch of wound up, bouncing-off-the-ceiling youngsters, as this bunch.  The adrenaline rush was so great that we knew they had to come down from the high and then the crash came!  Within minutes they were all fast sleep and slept until we reached the Backpackers.  Me? I fell asleep too and woke myself up snorking like a little piglet which had everyone who was awake, laughing at me.  At least I was entertaining!

 

 

AVIVA Joins Cape to Addo Tour : Part 1

AVIVA were fortunate enough to be invited to join volunteers on a 3-day Cape to Addo Tour. Though we did not go all the way to the Addo Elephant Park (that is on the 6-day tour), we nonetheless had a blast of our lives.

We were uplifted picked up at the AVIVA Volunteer House at the wonderful dreadful hour of 5am which meant a 4am getting-out-of-the-bed-with-a-grunt-and-a-moan kind of thing, which I might add was not pleasant at all. Be that as it may, we cheerily greeted our tour guide, Nico, stumbled into the van, nestled comfortably into our seats and headed off to collect the next batch of volunteers and/or interns and/or language students and once everyone was present and counted for, we headed out of Cape Town.

First stop just-had-to-be the Engen One Stop in Somerset West, which is undoubtedly the best eat-and-run place at which to stop, when heading out on a road trip. After grabbing coffee and food-on-the-go, we headed to the Garden Route Game Lodge just outside of Mossel Bay for a game drive and to see the Big 5.

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All the Big 5 were out enjoying the beautiful sunshine and just in case you are interested, so were the flowers – fields of them.

Before we knew it, we were in Sedgefield and luckily in time to watch the sunset at Myoli Beach – the sun did not disappoint.  Some of us stayed at the top look-out point whilst others ventured down to the beach and onto the rocks for a bit of “me” time. Photographic evidence from a sober bunch of great peeps.

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Once at the house and having unpacked, freshened up, we ended the perfect day in the perfect way – braai, red wine, salad and chunky hot garlic bread.. IMG_20150214_222631 IMG_20150602_213338

One great thing about going on a tour is that you, as the passenger, are able to drink and enjoy knowing that you will not be driving.  So before long and after the dishes has been stacked into the dishwasher and the place was tidied, the volunteers headed to the Beach Bar for more drinking and socialising whilst others crept quietly into bed.

Soon we were all pushing out the zzzzzzz’s with such force dainty execution, that we did not hear them tumbling back into the house after a serious bit of socialising.

Next post = Day 2 …. and what a day it was!

A Day in the life of a Penguin Keeper – Featured Project

written by Michelle Greenfield of the USA.

I walk into work at 7:45 am and welcomed by the wonderful aroma of penguins. I am excited for the day ahead, knowing I have the incredible opportunity to work with one of the world’s endangered species. I quickly go into general, the central hub of the center, where I grab my boots, oil skins, arm guards (old wetsuit arms), and gloves. Promptly at 8am, everyone in the center comes together for the morning meeting. Daily assignments are distributed and community wide announcements are made. Once the bird rehabber who is leading the meeting wishes everyone a good day, I head off to the pens, as the day has officially begun. The daily schedule varies depending upon which job I am assigned to for the day, but a typical day for someone working in a pen with the penguins is as follows.

The first job I have is to give the penguins their medications and darrows, which is a mixture of water and electrolytes. The medications that come in pill form, I push down the bird’s throat for it to swallow. I place the liquid medications into the darrow solution, and then give it to the penguin via a tube.

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After the birds get all of their medications, depending upon how far along they are in the rehabilitation process, they get to swim. Those birds that have recently arrived swim for only a few minutes, while those that are going to be released soon are given an entire hour to swim.   IMG_4139

While the birds are swimming, I clean the pen and drag the mats over to Mats and Crates where they will be cleaned with a power hose to remove the large collection of penguin poop that has accumulated on them. Then I scrub the pen with soap and water until it is spotless. Once the mats are clean, I put them back in the pen and let the birds come back in when their swimming time is over. My next task is to go prepare fish. Every penguin has a specific fish limit determined by the veterinary staff, which is mostly either one or two fish. All of the penguins receive one medicated fish every morning, so after collecting the fish from the bucket of frozen fish and letting them thaw, I put the daily vitamin into the fish’s mouth and get ready to feed. Feeding is probably the most exciting part of the day. There is nothing quite like the feeling of being able to feed a penguin.

DSC_0853When I go into the pen with my bucket of fish, the little chicks come crowd by my feet, begging for food. No matter how the day is going, I cannot help but smile at how adorable they are. To feed, I pick up one of the penguins and sit down on my stool, securing its body and flippers between my legs and holding its head with my gloved hand. Then I open its mouth and shove the fish in, being careful to make sure that the bird completely swallows the fish. I follow this process until all of the penguins have been fed. Then, I gently spray them down with the hose so that the fish oil does not ruin the waterproof feathering of the birds. Since the penguins have to wait at least one hour after feeding before they can be handled, I have some time to get started on whatever jobs need to be done. This mostly involves cleaning. Buckets, syringes, walkways…all need to be scrubbed clean and covered down with an antiseptic spray. Towels also need to be washed and dried, and nesting material needs to be cut for the permanent residents at the center. I also help prepare chick mix, a special food mixture for the chicks made of chopped up seafood, eggs, and chicken, and formula, a supplement for underweight birds, made up of a mixture of fish and vitamins. Apart from possibly giving a few birds some water or formula, there is not much to do apart from cleaning before lunchtime. Right before lunch, I place the birds into the pool so that they can swim over lunch, and then I take my break. After lunch, I go prepare more fish so that I am ready for the second feeding of the day. Feeding goes just like it did in the morning. Since the birds have to sit again, I go back to doing jobs and helping out around the center. I also have to prepare my medication for the 16:00 fluids, and fill out the bird cards. Each bird has its own card, which contains all information pertaining to the bird, including what medications it is on and how many fish it eats every day. If there is ever any doubt about the condition of a bird, the first thing the veterinarian does is to check the bird’s history, which is readily found on the card. At 16:00, I give the second round of medications and fluids to the penguins in the same fashion as I did at the very beginning of the day. Then I quickly go mop the floor in the entrance of the center so that everything is nice and clean and ready for the following day. Right before I leave at 17:00, I replace the mosquito repellant tabs in the pen and turn on the heat lamps so that the birds will be comfortable for the night. Then I put away my oilskins and gumboots, wish everyone a good night, and head out for the day. Every day has its ups and downs. All of the scrubbing and cleaning is hard work, but being able to work with African penguins is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I know that every day I come to work, I am helping to rehabilitate and save an endangered species.

Volunteering on this project has been a wonderful experience – don’t hesitate, you will find it truly rewarding.