The Faculty of Agriculture is big on “hands-on learning” — applying theory to practice — and there is no better example of this approach than through its African Wildlife Ecology Course.
Introduced in 2015, the African Wildlife Ecology Course is an optional three-week credit course open to all students interested in an opportunity to work with what’s known as the “Big Five” — lions, elephants, Cape buffalo, leopards and rhinos — in a tented camp in the Amakhala Game Reserve in South Africa.
The Faculty of Agriculture partners with Rhodes University, one of South Africa’s leading research universities, and its world renowned Wildlife & Reserve Management Research Group on the development and delivery of this unique and innovative course.
Students are given lectures on such topics as anthropology, ecology, animal behavior, palaeontology and the climate and history of the region while also conducting short, individual research projects. Students participate in fieldtrips to surrounding areas to experience various ecosystems including Addo Elephant Park and Mountain Zebra National Park.
The second cohort of students recently returned from their adventures in June and wanted to share their favorite things about this international experience.
"This opportunity has opened my eyes by showing me how everything on this beautiful planet is connected in some way. It has shown me the importance of every individual living thing that exists and the impact that one missing individual has on not only its surrounding ecosystems, but the earth itself."
Megan Wynn, third-year Animal Science
"I could write forever about our experiences in South Africa, so I’ll write about the favorite critters that I saw. I am a big amphibian and reptile fan. I know plenty about the species at home in Canada, so it was really exciting for me to come to a new country and learn all about the species here!"
Maddie Empey, fourth-year Bioveterinary Science
"This entire trip is honestly the trip of a lifetime. It’s absolutely amazing to wake up to the African sunrise and stay up till the sunset. The beautiful scenery and wilderness surrounding the camps is the most exciting thing about being here in South Africa. Coming back from lunch and seeing a giraffe outside your tent, or going to classes and seeing an elephant just outside the door is an experience in and of itself!"
Jessica Gill, third-year BSc Agriculture
"The entire trip has been a life changing experience. It is hard to pinpoint what my favorite moment was during this three weeks… the trails Giles took us on off-roading were amazing. The exhilaration of sitting in my seat and going up a hill so steep I was staring at the sky was so much fun. I am currently thinking about taking up some vehicle off-roading at home!"
Ashley Tait, fourth-year Bioveterinary Science
"I loved learning something new every single day and the fact that even by our last day, I was still seeing new plants and animals amazed me!! This trip was nowhere near a vacation and even though it was a lot of work and some days were rough, it was AMAZING!! BEST TRIP EVER (and that’s coming from a travel bug)"
Lenka Wicha, third-year Animal Science
"The animals! They are big, fast and just straight up gorgeous. On our last night game drive, the scenery was breathtaking. The Milky Way shines like I’ve never seen it before. Then they appear: 2 sub-adult female lions, lazily rolling around in the grass. Just when you think this day couldn’t get any better, nature proves you wrong once more and the girls start roaring out in the open. Its both impressive and emotional, if that makes any sense!"
Nikki Vidal, fourth-year Animal Science
"My “big picture” favourite part of the trip was that at all times we had a wealth of knowledge about South African zoology, ecology, history and culture at our disposal in the form of Dr. Daniel Parker, Dr. Janine Gray and Dr. Sarah Gatti-Yorke. You can imagine having locals who have studied the local ecosystems makes a trip like this immensely better providing a unique experience."
David Mahoney, fourth-year Microbiology and Immunology
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